6th Grade Program
Nature’s Classroom, one of the premier outdoor environmental education centers in the country, is part of Hillsborough County Public Schools. In partnership with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), we have been a cornerstone educational program supporting science and other content standards for over 50 years. We offer students the opportunity to discover four ecosystems over 365 natural acres, experience the Hillsborough River, and study the native wildlife.
All Hillsborough County Public School 6th grade students attend Nature’s Classroom. Over 18,000 students each year get the education of a lifetime. This 3-day field study includes the following lessons:
Ecosystem exploration: Students investigate the property and learn how biotic and abiotic factors shape the ecosystems around them.
- Shoreline sampling: Students wade into the water to collect aquatic invertebrates to determine the health of the Hillsborough River.
- River exploration: Students boat along the Hillsborough River to study biodiversity and learn the importance of the river in their lives. Students also collect and analyze data about water quality by testing for the pH, nitrate, and dissolved oxygen levels.
- Interpretive center: Students learn about vertebrate taxonomy and are able to study and hold live animals. These native and exotic animals include a variety of snakes, turtles, toads, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, rats, lizards, and alligators.
- Orienteering: Students practice using a compass and map to navigate through the upland ecosystems in small, student-led groups.
- Animal compound: Students learn about animal adaptations and how these animals support their ecosystems. Our non-releasable animals find a permanent home at Nature’s Classroom and are the jewel of our program. Our sanctuary currently includes white-tailed deer, coyote, raccoons, a bobcat, a Florida panther, a black bear, an alligator, a red-tailed hawk, a great-horned owl, and a turkey vulture.
For many students, this multi-day environmental field study will be their first chance to explore the real Florida wilderness. Their memorable experiences build the foundation of responsible stewardship. Our mission is to plant the seeds of conservation through hands-on environmental education and to create lifelong guardians of nature.