The words “field trip” evoke celebration in classrooms everywhere; however, there is perhaps nothing more magical than a field trip to Nature’s Classroom. Every Hillsborough County 6th grade public school student gets to enjoy three consecutive days of exploration as part of their science curriculum. Students never forget the memorable experience of hiking through Florida’s hardwood hammocks and wetlands, handling small animals like snakes and mice in the interpretive center, and observing nature as they boat down the Hillsborough River. Hillsborough Virtual School science teacher, Leah Shaffer, has seen firsthand how wonderful this experience is for children: “Nature’s Classroom is a unique, immersive experience, creating a long-lasting impact on any students who attend. Through interactive experiences that focus on a variety of topics and skills aligned to the state standards, Nature’s Classroom teachers and staff help students learn in a way that very few other programs can.”

Since 2007, this gem opens its doors to the larger community as a schoolwide fundraiser one day a year. This year, they will open April 28 from 9 a.m- 3 p.m. Many of the same activities 6th grade students experience will be available for the entire family including: children’s activities, animal experiences, hikes, a shoreline sampling event, and exhibitors. Bell Shoals Baptist Academy teacher, Rachel Larsen Reger, knows you do not want to miss it: “Nature’s classroom in hands-on learning, actually seeing nature, and learning how to identify and respect the beauty all around. On-site teachers tour, teach, and tell tales that can’t be taught in the traditional classroom. While there I’ve scooped microscopic organisms from the water and studied them, walked the boardwalk over the wetlands and learned the lay of the land.

Gate entry is $10 per carload with boat rides costing $2 per person. Food trucks and a silent auction will be on site, and please note this is a cash only event. No ATMs are on site, so please prepare accordingly. Please no mini-buses, coolers, or pets.

Volunteers are also welcome and needed. School aged students may volunteer as long as they are accompanied by adult chaperones. Volunteer hours are 8 a.m.- 1 p.m., 12 noon – 4 p.m., or all day (8 a.m.- 4 p.m.). To volunteer, contact Jennifer Boroff at Jennifer.Boroff@sdhc.k12.fl.us or call 987-6969. Nature’s Classroom is located at 13100 Verges Rd., Thonotosassa, 33592.