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Environmental Education School Programs

The Eco-Education Programs at the University of North Florida provide school children with the unique opportunity of learning more about wildlife and nature while outdoors. All of our eco-education programs are ranger guided and begin with an introduction to the University of North Florida and the UNF Wildlife Sanctuary. The concept of wildlife is discussed and relevant safety points are extensively described.

Our education programs are designed for K-9 grade. We strive to bring youth and the community into nature, hosting our programs in the 382 acre Sawmill Slough Preserve on campus. Along our five mile trail system we teach participants about the local plants, animals and habitats that make up the preserve. Every program can be adapted to suit the age group of your students.

What to expect with COVID-19 precautions set in place:

  • All guests must wear a face covering for the entire program. This includes during the guided hike through the trails.
  • All guests must adhere to social distancing guidelines and stay at least 6 feet apart from others.
  • Hands-on activities and games will be limited due to social distancing.
  • All items used in activities will be sanitized after each field trip.
  • We will only be able to host up to 20 individuals per day, but you may reserve multiple days if needed.
  • All groups must book/reserve a program and complete a contract prior to program date.
  • For more information or to schedule a program please e-mail us at rectrail@unf.edu

Programs Currently Offered

Colors and Shapes (Pre-K, K, 1)

This program includes a short hike through the Red Maple Boardwalk. On the hike, children will use a picture checklist to identify common natural occurrences in the UNF Wildlife Sanctuary. Students will learn about the plants and animals that can be found in northeast Florida and how they work together. Students will have hands on experience feeling, and smelling the different plants found throughout the preserve as well as playing nature-themed games with their peers.

Home for Ozzie (K-2)

This program revolves around the children’s book “A Home for Ozzie,” written by current and former UNF Eco Adventure staff. The rangers will have story time with the students, followed by a hike through the preserve which will bring the story to life. The book focuses on Ozzie the Osprey, UNF’s mascot, and the different habitats and animals we may encounter. Emphasis is placed on habitats and the different species found on the preserve.

Insects and Others (Grades 1-3)

This program starts out with a hike through the UNF Wildlife Sanctuary, during which students will observe the habitats of aquatic and terrestrial insects and their relatives. After the hike, they will participate in the outdoor lab where they will get hands on experience observing the different insects and creatures found in the lake, naming the different resin preserved insects, and solving insect themed riddles. Students will also learn about the different insect mouth-parts and how they work. These activities illustrate the basics of insect ecology, anatomy, and behavior.

Backyard Botany (Grades 3-6)

This program’s hike will explore the different properties of plants and garden ecosystems. Students will learn about the parts of the plants and flowers, as well as the basics of photosynthesis and the water cycle. Interactive, hands on activities include labeling worksheets as well as crafting their own seed growing starter kits.

Healthy Explorers (Grades 2-5)

Students will hike through the different habitats, while learning about the animals living in them, that can be found in the UNF Wildlife Sanctuary. This program will cover the importance of nutrients to the environment as well as their importance to humans. Students will have the chance to explore nutrient cycling in nature and link it to the nutritional needs of humans.

Young Scientists (Grades 5-9)

This program starts out with an introduction to the purpose of science, the scientific method, and experimental design in the pavilion. Students will learn how to format field notes, record observations, and conduct basic field sampling at the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve. After the hike, we will return to the pavilion to debrief and discuss the importance of various aspects of the field activity. Note that students should wear appropriate outdoor attire and have water and a snack on hand.

Stewardship Superheroes (Grades 2-9)

Teach students how to be effective stewards of the environment by learning about human impacts on the environment and ways to help protect wildlife. This program includes various activities that go over ways we can enjoy the outdoors but also while respecting it by picking up trash, staying on the trail, keeping your distance from wildlife, and how to teach others to become better stewards as well.