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Henry County Third-Graders Embark on Adventure and Discovery at Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center

HENRY COUNTY, GA – Nestled on 1,000 acres of forested wetlands in Locust Grove, the Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center has become an annual rite of passage for Henry County’s third-graders.

These young adventurers, the “Cubihatcha Kids,” embark on an educational trek into the heart of nature, courtesy of the Henry County Outdoor Education Partnership.

Approximately 3,000 HCS students visited the Cubihatcha Outdoor Center this year in September. Cubihatcha is a Native American term that means “land between the lakes” and is the inspiration for the Center’s name, as the facility sits between two of the Henry County Water Authority’s (HCWA) five reservoirs.

Wide-open stretches and densely wooded trails create the ideal backdrop to stoke students’ imagination and sense of wonder. The location provides the perfect setting for hands-on learning about the environment.

Strategically placed signs lead groups of students and their teachers along trails to various stations. The “Cubihatcha Kids” spend approximately two hours participating in STEM-related classes and activities on their designated day.

For many of these young learners, the annual field trip is a chance to trade traditional classroom walls for the wonders of the great outdoors. Here, textbooks come to life through fun and engaging demonstrations and question-and-answer segments that can leave a lasting impression. Students conduct field experiments, explore the intricate ecosystems that make up the Center’s sprawling landscape, and learn about the wildlife that populates the area.

“I think it’s a really great idea because the students get a hands-on approach to the curriculum,” said Fairview Elementary third-grade teacher Tammy Feloss. “This is something they are learning right now in science. It’s a part of their curriculum, learning about the animals, the plants, and their habitats. The opportunity is also important because some students may not have had this chance to see up close what an animal may look or feel like. It is definitely an advantage for the students.” 

Lessons about environmental pollution and science in nature help students understand the consequences of their actions. Students get to observe simulations that show how chemical use or improper waste disposal impacts the ecology of watersheds and the general environment.

The annual Cubihatcha field trip is more than just a day in the woods; it can be a transformational experience that sparks a lifelong love affair with nature. The outdoor classes and activities meet the third-grade Georgia Standards for Excellence and Applied STEM curricula. 

The experiential public education program also aligns with the Henry County Board of Education’s Community-Inspired Strategic Plan, which calls for every student to have the opportunity to participate in STEM-based education.

“I have only recently begun instructing during our Cubihatcha Kids field trips but being able to see the spark in a child’s eyes when they learn about the outdoors is truly amazing,” said Todd Brackin, conservation enforcement specialist at HCWA Cubihatcha Center. “Children today spend so much time glued to screens, so finding a balance can be a struggle. Nature can be that balance, and this event opens that world to them.”

“The Cubihatcha Kids event gets Henry County third-graders outside for some much-needed fresh air. Teaching children about nature in a technology-driven world can be challenging, but there are physical and emotional benefits, as well as social skills that are developed when you step outside into the great outdoors,” added Jeff Scott, naturalist at HCWA Cubihatcha Center. “Our HCWA staff and partners believe that by educating these children on topics such as water quality, native wildlife, forestry, agriculture, and many more, we are inspiring the next generation of environmentalists and responsible stewards of our valuable natural resources. To everyone involved with this event, thank you, and job well done!”

The Henry County Outdoor Education Partnership is an enduring collaboration between HCWA, Henry County Board of Education, Henry County Board of Commissioners, and other public and private partners. This extraordinary learning adventure has been inspiring young minds since 2003.

About Henry County Schools

Henry County Schools (HCS) is the eighth-largest school district in Georgia, consisting of 52 schools, including two academies, located about 20 minutes south of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Over the past 20 years, our community has grown in population from 113,000 residents to over 244,000 residents. Since 1999, student enrollment has grown from 21,000 students to 43,000 students, and our number of employees has grown from 3,000 to 6,000.

HCS is “In Pursuit of Exceptional,” taking action to advance opportunities, access, and outcomes so that every student in our school district has Exceptional Support, Exceptional Access, and an Exceptional Future. In 2020, our Board of Education adopted our 2021-2026 Community-Inspired Strategic Plan and laid out a clear vision and mission for Henry County Schools. Our vision is to ensure a high-quality, world-class education for every student, and our mission is to empower all students with exceptional opportunities and access that lead to success in a global society.