Classroom in the Forest

Published 11:29 pm Sunday, June 2, 2024

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The annual Classroom in the Forest (CIF) program, organized by The Alabama TREASURE Forest Association (ATFA) in partnership with the Crenshaw County Extension Agency and other natural resource organizations including the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), the Crenshaw County Water Conservation District and others brought a unique learning experience to Crenshaw County fifth grade students on May 10. 

The event was held at Fern Valley, a scenic piece of land located just off the Troy Highway and owned by the King family. The hands-on learning event offered a unique blend of education and outdoor fun. 

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According to William Green, executive director of the Alabama TREASURE Forest Landowners Association, CIF offers a unique learning experience for local students.

“Classroom in the Forest is a good way to educate younger children and spark that passion for being outside,” Green said. “This is a great way to show them the different things that owning private property can offer them. The TREASURE Forest certification process is designated for landowners who use best management practices for not only timber production but wildlife, aesthetics and environmental stewardship, and Classroom in the Forest teaches kids about these practices.”

Student groups rotated through various educational stations, each providing insights into different aspects of forest and wildlife management, including prescribed burning, wildfires, tree identification, pond management and more. Education Coordinator with the Crenshaw County Conservative District did an enviroscape demonstration to teach students about watershed and nonpoint source pollution. Learners also explored the skins and skulls station, where they learned about local wildlife through hands-on interaction with animal pelts, including those of a fox, bobcat and coyote. 

Crenshaw County Extension Administrative Support Associate Jayden Powell provided detailed information on these animals and their roles in the ecosystem of Crenshaw County. Powell led a question-and-answer session, allowing students to touch the various furs.

Crenshaw County Extension Coordinator Amanda West Evans organized the events and orchestrated the collaboration between the various agencies. 

“Fern Valley is an ideal setting for Classroom in the Forest and we greatly appreciate the King family for hosting us,” Evans said. “An outdoor classroom is an ideal setting for learning about the world around us.”

The outreach continued beyond Fern Valley, as Powell and the skins and skulls exhibit traveled to Brantley School, where fourth graders had the chance to engage with the materials up close. Regina Parker, a fourth grade teacher at Brantley School, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity.

“We are very blessed to have administrators like Mr. Marcus Taylor and Mrs. Sarah Osborne who support bringing this kind of enrichment into the classroom,” said Parker. “I appreciate the Crenshaw County Extension Agency for giving this presentation and providing this unique learning opportunity for my students. I know they will be looking forward to visiting Fern Valley next year as fifth graders.”

The Classroom in the Forest program is an integral part of ATFA’s mission to promote wise forest management and educate the public on the significance of private land ownership. By engaging students in interactive demonstrations, CIF aims to foster a sense of pride and respect for Alabama’s natural resources and ensure their sustainability for future generations. 

In addition to educating students, the program builds a network of landowners and natural resource professionals dedicated to sustainable forest management. 

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