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Public Invited to "Nature's Classroom" Annual Open House

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Christopher Rusnak
"Nature's Classroom is a program for all Hillsborough County 6th graders.

School officials in Hillsborough County think Mother Nature is a pretty good teacher.

Since 1969, all sixth grade students in Hillsborough County Public Schools have experienced an outdoor environmental education program.

The program's coordinators say it’s more essential than ever, given the increasing amount of time kids are spending on their screens.

Christopher Rusnak is a teacher at "Nature's Classroom," located on 365 acres of land along the Hillsborough River.

“We take them on hikes, we take them on boats along the river and it’s designed to make the students of Hillsborough County aware of the water shed,” he said. “They become aware of the ecosystem and how it impacts them."

More than 328,000 students have experienced the year-round 3-day program.

"Our real mission is to have kids have a great time in nature; to learn about it and to see where they fit, so that as they age they can be informed decision makers as far as conservation and preservation goes,” said Rusnak.

The education center in Thonotosassa, includes an aviary, animal habitats, and outdoor classrooms and it’s open to the general public once a year.

That annual open house is coming up Saturday April 16. Nature-loving folks can take a guided hike through the 365- acre cypress swamp and explore the river’s shoreline.