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Cubihatcha outdoor classroom celebrates 10 years


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Crayfish and dragon flies and guppies, oh my! Third grade students in Henry County schools participated in the Cubihatcha Outdoor Classroom, marking the tenth year that school children have been getting a hands-on nature experience in the outdoor classroom by observing habitats and wildlife up close.

Third grades students are fascinated by a snakeskin at the Cubihatcha Outdoor Learning Center.  Photo by Melissa Robinson

  Cubihatcha Outdoor center in Locust Grove is a treasure trove of pristine waterways, wetlands and woods, spread over 1,000 acres of land and two miles of trails. Henry County’s third grade classes have spent the past two weeks supplementing what they are learning in the classroom with the outdoor science curriculum.

  The “Cubihatcha Kids,” as they are called, were able to spend the day on their field trip exploring topics like the ecology of watersheds, characteristics of water, the role of reservoirs, stormwater runoff and wildlife that live in the area. Students were able to observe water creatures and even handle a snake or two throughout the excursion.

  Many of the program’s earliest teachers and participants came for the 10th anniversary and luncheon, including former Henry County Schools’ superintendent Michael Surma, who was the science coordinator when the program began. Surma said he remembers when the trails were being cleared for the outdoor classroom experience and said that several members of the school board at that time came out to lend a hand. He added that it’s very gratifying for him to see how the program has grown.

  “Originally we started working with teachers in outdoor education over in Clayton County at their water authority and we kept on trying to move over here and we eventually agreed that we should start with students. The development that’s occurred has been incredible, all the way from the first trail we put in.  We hand cut a trail out here and members of the school board along with members of the community helped out with that one originally,” he said. “The water authority’s work out here has been phenomenal to support the school system, enabling students to see what’s part of their own world right here in Henry County. There were a number of individuals in the county that really worked on this to make it happen.

  Tabi Crumbley, who is the science clerk for Henry County schools, said she remembered the program from the start and is amazed at how it has grown.

“Back when this began, we only had 13 elementary schools. Now there are 28 schools that participate. The students love it,” she said.

  Chuck McCarter, Reservoir and Land Manager for the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, said that this year’s Cubihatcha hosted approximately 3,000 students and over the past ten years, more than 27.000 students have enjoyed and learned from the outdoor classrooms. He said preparation begins around August in order to provide the outdoor classrooms to area schoolchildren.

  J.D. Hardin, Communications Specialist with Henry County Board of Education, said that the school district is probably as excited if not more excited than the kids to have the opportunity to expose students to the science curriculum outside the traditional classroom.

  “Kids love this hands-on type of learning about things that happen right here in Henry County, right in their own back yard, so giving them that experience and having the relationship with the Water and Sewerage Authority and of course other agencies and state entities really means a lot from a partnership standpoint,” said Hardin. “So we’re excited about this and want to keep it going for another ten years and beyond.”



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