This July, 70 kids from the Boys &Girls Club of Hernando County climbed on board buses to spend half a day at Weekiwachee Preserve as part of a special field trip. The children ranged in age from 5 to 13.
The field trip proposal began when Will Miller, District land use and protection manager, approached Yvonne Krajcovic, executive director from the Boys &Girls Club, about the idea.
“I contacted several youth organizations, including the Boys &Girls Club of Hernando County, because we would like to see more young people experience public lands,” said Miller. “We want to teach them about the value of public lands and what those lands have to offer so their generation understands how important it is to protect and preserve it.”
Krajcovic then met with Miller; Eric Sutton, District land resources assistant director; and Kim DeVary, District land use specialist, to learn more about the potential field trip.
“This field trip was a great addition to our summer program,” said Krajcovic. “Kids enjoy being outside during the summer, and adding a fun educational activity enhanced the experience.”
District Communications and Land Resources staff worked together to plan the fun and informative field trip, which included a special watershed presentation and trail hike.
“The kids were overwhelmed with excitement,” said Rose Montgomery, Boys &Girls Club program specialist. “Some of these kids don’t get out in the wilderness so this was a unique trip for them. It was fun to see the reaction on their faces when they were able to find things in their books during the nature walk.”
DeVary and Mary Barnwell, District senior land management specialist, led one group on a guided hike along one of the preserve’s many trails. The two created an “I Spy” activity where the children had to find and identify plants and animals commonly found in a pine flatwoods ecosystem. To make the hike more interesting, DeVary and Barnwell planted objects of interest, such as a raccoon skull and tortoise shell, along the trail to prompt discussion about the variety of wildlife living in the preserve.
“This was a great chance for the kids to get outside and learn about the native habitat and recreational opportunities on District lands,” said DeVary. “The kids were excited to know that they could bring their parents back to show them what they had learned.”
Mary Alice Makoid and Mary Torrusio, District communications coordinators, as well as Nesya Bliss, youth education intern, led the other group in a discussion about the importance of protecting the watershed through a hands-on Project WET activity. The children learned how water moves downstream in a watershed and that any activity on the land or in the water can impact other areas of the watershed. This activity demonstrates why everyone living or working in a watershed needs to take measures to protect its health.
“Being at Weekiwachee Preserve was a great opportunity to discuss water resources issues with the kids,” said Torrusio. “Sometimes the concept of a watershed is difficult for them to understand, so it helps to be out in nature and use the surroundings as a teaching tool.”
The students were also given an opportunity to sign a watershed pledge to prevent water pollution by making simple changes around the house.