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Paddle Georgia trip includes local teacher, several Forsyth residents

FORSYTH COUNTY — A local teacher will be paddling 95 miles down the Ogeechee River this summer, and she plans to share what she learns on the trip with her students.

Suzanne Pitz, who teaches gifted students at Daves Creek Elementary, won one of six scholarships from the Georgia River Network to participate in Paddle Georgia, a week-long kayaking and canoeing trip June 20-26.

The scholarship program, sponsored by Simmons Bedding Co., provides environmental education training for the selected teachers, who will also become certified as Georgia Adopt-a-Stream chemical water monitors.

Pitz said she is excited to “experience firsthand” what she has been teaching to her students.

“I teach my students a unit about the ecosystems and the classification of animals that live in the blackwater rivers that flow into the salt marshes of Georgia,” she said. “I thought what better way to teach them about it than to have them kind of follow me along my trip.”

Pitz said she is bringing a GoPro camera and will update her blog about what she learns. Her students will be able to subscribe to it and get updates.

She will be joining more than 350 paddlers on the trip, which is celebrating its 11th year and will benefit the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that works to protect the river.

Forsyth County residents on the trip will include Bill and Leslie Avra, Carroll Voss, Vincent and Holly Tillirson and Phil and Sheliah Cooper.

This year’s trip is the first time Paddle Georgia has gone down a blackwater river.

“We have never done a river quite like the Ogeechee,” said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator. “That’s what is so great about Georgia’s rivers … you get the opportunity to explore lots of different places.”

Daily trips will be about 14 miles, and paddlers will camp at schools and parks along the way. They will also take a break to explore sites such as the Ogeechee-Savannah River Canal and downtown Statesboro, where they will play a game called Canoe Tug-O-War.

Cook said the purpose of the trip is to “create river lovers,” and he hopes participants will “change the way they do things a little bit.”

“Maybe they turn off their water when they brush their teeth because they’ve been on the river and they see what it’s like in a drought,” he said. “A river that has many lovers is well-kept.”