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Walk in the Forest is no ordinary walk in the woods
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Guyton students learn about aquatic life native to Georgia. - photo by Photo by Sandi Van Orden

Fourth grade students from Guyton Elementary, Marlow Elementary and Bryan County Elementary spent Friday learning about forestry and conservation at the Warnell Forest Education Center.

Gail Lutowski, program specialist at the center, said this was the sixth year the Walk in the Warnell Forest has been held. There were approximately 400 students at the center Friday.

“It is an outdoor field day that we put on through the Society of American Foresters, which is the professional organization for foresters,” Lutowski said.

The center opened in 2001 and began the walks in 2002.

“We try to teach them about different aspects of natural resources that stay in line with the Georgia Performance Standards for fourth grade,” Lutowski said. “For example, one of the things they learn about in fourth grade is adaptations and habitat. We have several stations that are dealing with adaptations of wildlife, and what happens if the habitat changes.”

She said the walk in the forest is a national program that does walks for all ages to educate students about forests and natural resources.

“We chose fourth graders because it meets the standards,” Lutowski said.

She said typically 20 to 30 professionals come to present to the students. Weyerhaeuser provides lunch for the students. Students from the South Effingham FFA come to help serve the students lunch.

Lutowski said there were six stations the students participated in.

“The first station is dealing with wildfire and fire safety, so I have the Georgia Forestry Commission,” she said.

She said they would be talking about wildfires, and the differences between a wild fire and a prescribed fire.

“They’re playing a cool little game called fire tag that shows how fire works,” Lutowski said.

The second station is planting in an urban environment.

“We’re using that to talk about human habitat, and how you can manipulate your own habitat around your home,” Lutowski said.

The third station includes an activity called “oh deer.”

“That is an activity where they look at how deer interact with the habitat — food, water and shelter, and how if you have too many deer what it does to the habitat,” Lutowski said.

The fourth station is a trail where students learn about Native American uses of the forest.

“In fourth grade, they have a GPS standard in social studies on how Native Americans got what they needed from their environment. I call the activity, ‘where’s Wal-Mart.’”

The fifth station is about aquatic wildlife native to Georgia.

“They have all kinds of native fish and macro invertebrates,” Lutowski said. “They’re talking about those critters with the kids, and also the importance of wetlands and water quality.”

The final station has presenters from Arizona Chemical.

“They are showing modern uses of the forest,” Lutowski said. “Basically what Arizona Chemical does is they take by-products from the pulp and paper industry and turn them into thousand of products we use every day.

“It’s one day a year when all the forestry community comes together to do something to help educate students and teachers about forestry and natural resources,” she said. “It’s always a real fun day, and I’ve always had positive comments from teachers and students.”

Susan Doyle, a teacher at Marlow Elementary, said the program was great for the students.

“The students study habitats in fourth grade, and just finished,” Doyle said. “It’s a great way for them to see how forests are used and replenished.”

Doyle said it was a good way for students to learn about ecosystems.

“This lets them relate information in a new way that’s hard to do in school,” she said.

She said the students also leave knowing the importance of forest preservation. The students also learn about a lot of careers involved in forestry.

Mindy Fountain, a teacher at Guyton Elementary, said the program is enjoyable for the students. Fountain said her students just finished learning about the water cycle, and the station on aquatic life helps with what the students have learned.

“And they enjoy it,” she said. “It’s a great field trip.”