TAMPA, Fla. - Since 1969 more than 328,006 grade-school students in Hillsborough County schools have experienced Nature’s Classroom, an outdoor environmental education program located on 365 acres of land along the Hillsborough River.
Through a three-day, hands-on experience, the students study the complex and dynamic ecosystem surrounding the Hillsborough River. They hear about the challenges facing the environment and learn how the health of the river affects us all by influencing things such as our drinking water supply. Most importantly, students learn how their actions now and in the future can impact the environment in the community.
"It’s extremely important to connect students with their environments," stated Chris Rusnak with Nature’s Classroom. "That it’s something that keeps all of us alive and sometimes that is a thing, a connection that they don’t make unless they get out here."
Nature’s Classroom also has an on-site educational animal compound with a variety of native animals that were either rescued or needed a home. They have been fortunate enough to have things like a Florida black bear for the students to see, a bobcat that needed a home, whitetail deer.
Whenever there’s an animal available that needs a home and is an animal that they could see and that could mean something in the student’s lives, Nature’s Classroom is a sanctuary for them.
"I hope that students who come to Nature’s Classroom build this appreciation for nature, for the beauty of it, for the wonder of it, for what it means to them wherever they live here in Hillsborough County and we really want them to be guardians of nature," Rusnak explained.