Teaching Nature – Tree Hill hosts over 10,000 students annually

Nearly every weekday during the school year brings a field trip to Tree Hill Nature Center. As a Duval County School District partner, Tree Hill’s educators provide 3rd grade students with an unforgettable experience. Students arrive in the morning, many with no idea that Tree Hill existed or what is in store for them during their trip. They settle into the amphitheater where they are treated to the Animal Encounter program. Preserving native species and their habits is an essential part of the work done at Tree Hill, and the Animal Encounter is no exception. Most mornings, students are introduced to three native species: the American Alligator, the Florida Pine Snake, and the Opossum. Woven into the program are the main concepts that students are learning about in the classroom, such as adaptation, seed dispersal, and camouflage.

Tree Hill Nature Center, Old Arlington, Jacksonville, FL, photo by Fran Ruchalski

After they observe these animals up close and have a chance to touch them, the students head out for a guided nature walk along Tree Hill’s wooded trails. The educators further elaborate on the concepts being learned by the students as well as allow them to explore the touch tank, the gardens, and the natural history museum. In the gardens, students watch butterflies and hummingbirds fly about, they see the goats play, and they can watch the chickens go about their daily routines of dust baths, egg laying, and searching for bugs to eat. Most schools chose to conclude their visit with a picnic lunch under the palms and a bit of recess time on the grassy hill.

Tree Hill Nature Center, Old Arlington, Jacksonville, FL, photo by Fran Ruchalski

Last school year, Tree Hill was able to share this experience with over 11,000 students, teachers, and chaperones. Many of the teachers and chaperones are as awe-struck as the students, having never known about the 50-acre oasis tucked into an Arlington neighborhood. One of the most exciting parts of the trip is spotting wildlife in the trees, in the water, or on the ground. Some groups spot a smooth green snake almost invisible hiding among the branches and leaves of a tree. On warm, sunny days students may be treated to the slow-moving adventures of one of the many Florida Box Turtles who utilize the habitat protected by Tree Hill.

Tree Hill Nature Center, Old Arlington, Jacksonville, FL, photo by Fran Ruchalski

If your son or daughter is heading to Tree Hill for a field trip this year, here are a few helpful hints:

  • Your child will be with at least one of Tree Hill’s trained educators at all times during their visit. Educators only lead students across paved paths, so there is no need to be concerned about getting lost. Safety is the number one priority of Tree Hill’s staff.
  • Be sure to send your child with plenty of water for their visit. There are water fountains on site, but it’s best to have plenty of water when spending time outside in the heat and sun.
  • If you wish, apply sunscreen and bug spray to your child before they leave for school in the morning. Speak with their teacher if you think more will need to be applied while they are visiting Tree Hill.

Tree Hill Nature Center, Old Arlington, Jacksonville, FL, photo by Fran Ruchalski

One of the most common questions that is asked by students is whether they can come back to visit. The answer is, yes! You can pay per person per day, or Tree Hill offers family memberships for $40 per year, which also allows the family free entry into the annual Joseph A. Strasser Butterfly Festival. Your family can come walk the trails, explore the museum, and enjoy the gardens between 8am and 4:30pm, Monday through Saturday, nearly every day of the year. For more information about Tree Hill’s education programs, recent projects, and upcoming events please call 904-724-4646 or visit the website, treehill.org.

About Katie Salz

october, 2021

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