Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More than 100 fifh-grade students participated in a morning of outdoor learning on Tuesday as part of the 2013 Classroom in the Forest. (Photo/Jaine Treadwell)

More than 100 fifh-grade students participated in a morning of outdoor learning on Tuesday as part of the 2013 Classroom in the Forest. (Photo/Jaine Treadwell)

Students experience a different kind of learning

“Oh Deer!” The woods were alive with the sound of eager young learners Tuesday as 2013 Classroom in the Forest got underway at the Gene Renfroe farm in rural Pike County.

One hundred and 20 fifth-grade students from Goshen and Pike Liberal Arts schools participated in a morning of outdoor learning.

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Students from Banks, New Life Christian and Pike County Elementary schools will attend Classroom in the Forest today.

Grant Lyons, Pike County Extension coordinator, said Pike County Treasurer Forest started Classroom in the Forest several years ago.

“This year is the first year that Classroom in the Forest has been a joint effort of several agencies,” Lyons said. “Pike County Treasure Forest, Extension System, 4-H, Alabama Forestry Commission, NRCS and Pike County Farm-City have joined together to make Classroom in the Forest an even bigger event and greater success.”

Lyons expressed appreciation to Gene Renfroe and his staff for making the Renfroe Farm available as an outdoor classroom.

“You won’t find a better managed farm,” Lyons said. “The Renfroe farm has everything that is needed to conduct an outdoor classroom — wooded and open areas and a well-stocked pond. It’s all right here.”

The students participated on a rotating basis in six outdoor classrooms – tree identification, prescribed burning, flag a tree, wildlife habit/Oh, Deer, pond management and environscape/erosion.

“The students learned to identify trees that grow in our area by their bark and leaves,” said Jeremy Lowery, Pike County forester.  “They learned what prescribed burning is and its benefits.  They learned when to burn and why.”

Johnny Knight, Pike County Forestry Commission, showed the students how to flag trees.

“The dominant trees are the tallest,” he said. “Co-dominant trees are not as tall and the suppressed trees are the smallest.”

The students were good learners and quickly put the flagged trees into the proper category.

Animals in the wild need three basic things – food, water and space. Jordan Graves, Pike County Extension, put the students through the paces.

One group played the role of food, water and space and the other students played the role of animals seeking and finding their basic needs.

Claude Reeves, retired Extension aquaculture specialist, talked with the students about pond management and, using a seine, he demonstrated that ponds are populated with fish of all sizes and, therefore, must be managed to give all “inhabitants” a chance to survive and grow.

Ask the participating students how much water forest soil can absorb and they’ll say, “18 inches.”

Forest soil is a non-renewable source so it is vitally important to the life of a forest.

“Students don’t readily realize what’s under our feet and its importance,” said Jessica Morris, Pike County Soil and Water Conservation.

“The enviroscape/erosion class helped the students understand the importance of soil in the forest.”

Classroom in the Forest will continue today at the Renfroe farm with about 80 fifth grade students participating.