Students at Arabia Mountain High School in Atlanta don't need to go far to appreciate the natural beauty of their region. The school is nestled in a 2,000-acre preserve brimming with native plant and animal species, set among a topography of granite outcrops that are unique to Georgia. This connection to nature results in kids who are driven to learn about the environment, making Arabia Mountain an ideal place for the first of 11 Atlanta-area garden build projects in the Nature Works Everywhere program.

Nature Works Everywhere is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and the Captain Planet Foundation, with funding from CSX Transportation and media support from the Environmental Media Association. The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest conservation organizations in the United States, also runs an immersion project for high school students called LEAF, giving students the opportunity to experience what it's like to do conservation work as a career.

In this video, Deron Davis of The Nature Conservancy and Leesa Carter of the Captain Planet Foundation talk about the impact that hands-on gardening projects can have on high school students like those at Arabia Mountain.

“This community has really come together around the theme of the environment and how it will help their students learn,” says Davis. “I believe that by connecting them to the ground, they will carry that ethic with them into their life.”

Teens participating in the program say the experience has given them an opportunity to see nature in a whole new way. The organizers hope this exposure will result in increased environmental awareness, no matter what career path a student chooses.

"When kids get to do that work, and they get to see the impact that they're having personally, the engagement is amazing, and that's why these partnerships work," says Carter.

Learn more about the garden program at natureworkseverywhere.org.

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Transcript

"The Nature Works Everywhere" program of the Nature Conservancy has come to Atlanta. Today is the first garden program we're doing in what will be 11 schools in the Atlanta area. We are in Arabia Mountain High School in DeKalb County, Georgia. It's important to know that where we sit, is surrounded by 2,000 protected acres of land, forest, streams, and branded outcrops, which are very unique in this State. These students are driven, I think, by their own commitment to their learning, and their own commitment to the environment. They also have incredibly supportive parents and teachers. So, this community has really come together around the theme of the environment, and how it will help their students learn.

At Arabia Mountain High School, we promote to the students to come in and start choosing their career pathway immediately. We promote them to see their occupations in a more environmental way. There's a drive to understand the environmental impact that they're having in their every day life.

And, what we're doing here today, is building a garden, so that those students can really dig in the dirt, and then continue to appreciate and understand the value of nature in their community.

I've told a lot of people that I know to take care of their environment a lot more because the Nature Conservancy has given me an opportunity to see nature in a totally different way. And, I've never really seen nature the way that they see nature, and I'll cherish it more than I ever have.

And, we would not be here without the Captain Planet Foundation, which is a critically important partner. They worked with us on the design and installation of this garden. And also CSX, who's helped provide the funding for this opportunity today.

Well, the Nature Conservancy is a great fit for Captain Planet because they're one of the largest conservation organizations in the United States. And, they have a program called LEAF, which is a deep immersion project for high school students, that give them an opportunity to experience what it's like to do conservation work as a career. And so, when the kids get to do that work and they can see the impact that they're having personally, the engagement is amazing. And, that's why these partnerships work.

CSX is a national partner with the Nature Conservancy. We're able to help to fund, and to sponsor programs throughout our 23 state network. And, we are out here to show support, not only from the financial side, but also from the human resources side.

There is no question that the world is changing and there is no question that we need students like the ones here today to understand better about how to manage that world in the future. And, I believe that by connecting them to the ground, whether they end up being environmental scientists, or whether they end up being doctors or lawyers, they will carry that ethic with them into their life.