Four hundred and sixty-nine Autauga County fifth graders, teachers and parents enjoyed a learning experience outside the classroom.
The students, representing public and private schools, along with their teacher and parents "learned by doing" as they participated in hands-on activities on the 960-acre Autauga County woodland during the annual Friends of Forest event hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Hughes.
The three-day event was funded by the Autauga County Extension Office and the Autauga County commissioners. Local partners were the Autauga County Forestry Commission, Autauga County Board of Education, Autauga County Master Gardeners, Autauga County Natural Resources Council and Autauga County PALS.
The program was designed to engage all students in hands-on, minds-on activities that teach the importance of private forestland and private forest landowners regarding multiple-use management of our natural resources. The program was also intended to involve private landowners and stakeholders in the education of our youth, concerning the significance of our natural resources. Both goals are designed to correlate with the fifth grade, Alabama Science Course of Study.
Incorporating experiential learning in the outdoor classroom allowed the landowners and stakeholders to provide the youth with a rewarding and fun experience. Based on the program feedback and observations, we've concluded that embracing lessons that use multiple senses can increase retention of what is learned. The "discovery" of knowledge and solutions builds self esteem in youth. If youth are actively engaged in learning, they have more interest in the outcome of what they learn, thus they are less likely to create challenges.