By DOTTY NIST
Local education professionals recently got an update and sneak preview of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center and its surroundings.
Slated for a grand opening on Sept. 12, the center will serve as an environmental education facility for teachers, the community, professional audiences, and especially for students. The center is now under construction on the 48,000-acre Nokuse Plantation, a privately-owned conservation area.
On March 31, M.C. Davis, owner of Nokuse Plantation, welcomed the group, consisting of Walton County school principals, county school district staff members, representatives of the Pandhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC), and other guests.
Attendees got a look at buildings under construction for the nature center, along with classrooms that will house interpretative exhibits about wildlife, insects, plants, and other aspects of local native communities.
The trail system of Nokuse Plantative is to serve as a living classroom for teachers and students. The group was invited to participate in a .9-mile hike from the biophilia center, through a variety of natural communities and finally to a body of water known a Walker Branch. Biophilia center director Christy Scally and scientist Bob Walker served as host and guide to the hikers.
Sights along the trail ranged from turkey oaks to turkey wing fungus. Hikers saw a large family of newly-hatched grasshoppers, a number of loggerhead musk turtles, and were treated to the beauty of flaming azaleas and Florida anise trees in bloom.
“It’s really so beautiful, it’s natural, it’s an opportunity to be a part of the natural Walton County environment,” enthused Emerald Coast Middle School Principal Gail Smith.
Andy Howard, a coordinator for the Walton County School District Office, called the facility, “an incredible resource for the kids to be able to explore their Walton County hometown environment.”
Information on the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center is available on the Web site, www.eowilsoncenter.org.