Category Archives: Nature Awareness Programs

The Posters

Some people in business suggest, “If you can’t put an idea in a PowerPoint slideshow, it’s not worth sharing.” It is no mystery that seeing, in addition to hearing, is an important complement to learning and communicating. Presentation tools like PowerPoint can be used to illuminate ideas and enhance their understanding.

However, long before computers, multimedia presentations, and PowerPoint slide shows, there were the Posters. The Posters were the artistic creations of Leon and Rachel Gathany: text and pictures on poster board used in their presentations to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and other church groups. They were used to teach the words to a song or tell a Bible story. These Poster were a visual medium to communicate God’s love and his message of redemption.

Youngsters were singing songs in church with Pastor Leon holding a poster and pointing to the words for each line. They learned the words to many songs with the posters, while the matching pictures enhanced the meanings of these words.

Some of these early posters have been lost with time. However, the graphic below is a recreation that captures the feel of these hand-made displays.

Step forward many years. Leon was a Georgia State Park Naturalist and he and Rachel were presenting nature awareness programs for schools, civic clubs, church groups, senior citizens, and campers. They used this same seemingly low-tech medium of posters to present concepts and ideas in a memorable fashion.

Following are samples of posters that were used in their presentations.

Prey, Predator and Scavengers:

                A predator feeds on other living things (prey),

                while a scavenger eats animals that are already dead.

Native Americans Ways of Life:

                How did they treat the environment?

                What from their culture do we see every day?

Insects (Not Just Bugs!)

                Insect Orders.

                Head, Thorax and Abdomen.

God’s Amazing Creation:

                On the fifth day of creation God filled the sky with

                birds and the seas and rivers with living things.

Nature Awareness Programs

The following abridged excerpts from “The Old Man of the Mountain: An Autobiography by Leon B. Gathany” describe his experiences as a park naturalist and presenter of nature awareness programs.

“By the time the Toccoa Falls high school closed, I was thoroughly into the business of doing nature programs. I had a fairly good display of mounted mammals, birds and fossils from Florida, North Carolina, and even some from Wyoming. I also had an extensive assortment of insects and a very good collection of rocks and minerals. I used the collections with posters that summarized the characteristics of the artifacts I was displaying.

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In the summer of 1977, a friend of mine recommended that I take the position of summer Naturalist at Tugaloo State Park. A park naturalist’s responsibility is to present nature programs to the campers vacationing at the park. Subsequently, I began doing nature presentations at the park, which was the start to my adventures as a naturalist.

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Tugaloo Alaska

When I completed my programs for the summer, the Park Manager, expressed his appreciation and indicated that whenever I retired from teaching, I could work for him as Park Naturalist. So in 1983, I started working at Tugaloo State Park regularly in the summer months during the camping season. I would present morning and evening programs, especially on weekends. Also, on a few occasions I did presentations for other organizations, such as civic clubs, schools, scouts and churches.

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Through my programs at Tugaloo, I met the most interesting people and learned a great deal about various places in the United States.  One of my favorite friends was Dr. Don Griffith, the Superintendent of Decatur GA City Schools.  He attended my nature programs frequently when he camped with his family at the park. One day Don asked me, “Have you ever done programs at schools? I’d like for you to come down and start doing programs for the City Schools of Decatur.”

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So I began doing regular programs for City Schools of Decatur high schools and middle schools. Eventually I limited my programs to the elementary schools with kindergarten through sixth grade classes. These younger students’ desire for knowledge made my work there a true joy. The spring and fall programs at the eight elementary schools continued for several years.

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When I ceased to be a naturalist at Tugaloo State Park, I became a free-lance naturalist programmer and actually presented even more programs, including seventeen different Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. My wife, Rachel, also presented programs and we worked together and conducted over two-hundred programs per year for schools, state parks, civic organizations, scouts, churches, home schooled children, Elderhostel groups, and much more.

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We had a repertoire of eighteen unique programs including: Mammals, Birds, Snakes, Insects, Creatures of the Night, Beaver, Oceans, Producers and Consumers, Composting, Bats, Fossils, Rocks and Minerals, and Indian Ways of Life. Also our color slide programs included: Alaska the Last Frontier, Wild Flowers, This is My Country, Autumn Leaf Color, and Hawaii the Beautiful.

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Among the many nature programs we presented, the Alaska Program was always one of the favorites.  As a result, I traveled to Alaska thirty times and forty-two different folks joined me on these trips. Many of these fellow travelers have gone back again and also inspired their family and friends to take an Alaska vacation. How rewarding!”

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