As northeast Georgia braces for wintry precipitation this weekend, Pettit Environmental Preserve's staff also will be eyeing the weather Dec. 8. Titled Snow Science, the venue's Explore Nature Saturday program will be underway from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with presentations delivered throughout the day from the site's educators — Erin Zaballa and Brooke Payne.
"Snow is one of those things that brings out the kid in all of us. Building snowmen and having snowball fights seems to be in our DNA," said Marina Robertson, executive director for the Pettit Preserve. "Even if you don’t like shoveling or driving in snow, everyone loves to see the beautiful white blanket of the first snowfall of the season.
"So it’s a really fun topic that actually is guided by some very scientific weather conditions. That interplay of fun and science is right where we like to find programs to bring to the public. Plus, last year’s December program was snowed out. We were supposed to get 'a dusting' and got 8 [to] 12 inches of snow."
Free to preserve members, Saturday’s event will cost $3 per person, with a maximum $10 fee for each family. Along with the Snow Science program, the offering also will feature self-led hikes, and a craft and educational materials for youth ages 3 to 11.
"We will be looking at the science of how snowflakes form — what shapes they take and what weather conditions lead to them having various shapes," she said. "Snowflakes vary so much because they are created from the complex interplay of water, temperature and humidity at every altitude from where the flake begins to form to where it hits the ground.
"Each flake is really a collage of different aspects of frozen water — the farther a flake falls through sufficiently wet air, the more complex it becomes. We’ll talk about … the myth that no two snowflakes are alike. When you think about how much snow falls in a single winter storm here, billions of flakes, you can see how difficult it would be for each and every flake to be unique."
Situated off Ga. Highway 61 on the Bartow/Paulding county line, the preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation — The Margaret and Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. — in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property.
"We will have posters, infographics and pictures to share so visitors can learn all about snow — everything from why it snows and how snow forms, to why snowflakes look the way they do, to the classification of snow formations and types," Zaballa said. "We will also have a snowflake ornament craft for kids to make.
"One of the most interesting facts about snow, I think, is that snowflakes form in 35 basic shapes, which have individual variations. I hope visitors come away with a better appreciation for the science behind every snowflake."
Open to the general public during scheduled programs, the 70-acre venue consists of various trails developed by Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a 9-acre lake, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters, self-contained composting toilets and a Learning Shed. More than 20,000 patrons have visited Pettit Preserve or received outreach through its programs since the site opened in 2006.
"In 2015, we started offering hike-on-your-own opportunities to the public on the months we didn’t have special programming," Robertson said. "In 2017, we decided that we had the ability to provide educational topics every month that we didn’t have outside speakers and this would greatly increase our public outreach and be a great benefit to [Pettit] Preserve members as well. We have been very pleased with the response as we always have folks come just for the program. We have been amazed at how willing people have been to come out even in really cold weather — as long as the sun is shining.
"Now about half the months we have outside speakers and for the other half we present the programming. Folks can still hike on their own and we do the programming as they arrive or when they return from hiking the trails. It is a very flexible schedule."
She continued, "The topics for Explore Nature Saturdays have varied widely — nature is a really big subject. We’ve done scavenger hunts, animal tracking, tree identification, composting, native bees and focused on how mammals, reptiles, amphibians cope with winter. There is always something fun to learn about in nature, so we’ll never run out of program ideas."
In addition to the preserve's website, www.pettitpreserve.org, more information about the venue and Saturday's event can be obtained by contacting Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-848-4179.
Since this weekend's weather is forecasted to bring various forms of precipitation across north Georgia, Robertson encourages those interested in attending to either call her or view the site's Facebook page for program and weather updates. While rain will not hamper the event, the offering will be canceled in case of snow.