Kids in the Woods
The Kids in the Woods program at Westwood, which began in 2013, connects 6th grade students with local urban forests, creeks, and birds. The Kids in the Woods program is a collaboration between Westwood and several organizations - the USDA Forest Service, the University of Florida's School of Forest Resources and Conservation, the Alachua County School District, the City of Gainesville's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department. Students gain first–hand experience with the scientific method by conducting outdoor studies about bird feeding behavior, creek erosion and deposition, and tree identification and benefits.
Kids in the Woods kicks off the year with an introductory hike to Possum Creek. At the creek, students are introduced to scientific observation. They use their senses to discover their surroundings and make observations, noting what they hear, smell, see and feel. The bird observation study teaches students about the scientific method while enjoying the outdoors and getting to know local bird species. Students prepare for the study by learning to identify local birds (such as the Carolina wren and the blue jay), use binoculars, and accurately record data. Students form hypotheses about the number of bird visits they expect based on whether there is a predator or not on the feeder they are observing.
The creek erosion observation study gives students an opportunity to learn firsthand about creek weathering, erosion, and deposition. Students go to the creek and observe changes over time due to erosion and deposition. This kind of outdoor learning can help students grasp abstract concepts such as erosion and deposition.
Through the tree identification study, students learn how to identify local tree species using a dichotomous key. Students also learn about tree benefits and common terms related to tree identification. Students also learn about their local urban forests and increase their knowledge about local flora and forest ecology principles.
Volunteering is a great way to get involved with this program. If you would like more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Christine Floyd if you’re interested.
For students that want even more fun outdoors, the Kids in the Woods team now offers a summer camp called Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest. This week-long camp is offered two times each summer at the University of Florida’s Austin Cary Forest and is for rising 7th through 10th graders. Visit the camp website for more information.
For more information about the Kids in the Woods program, contact Christine Floyd, firstname.lastname@example.org.