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Harbison State Forest programs

Formal programs | Informal programs

Formal programs correlated to state math and science standards

Matt shows students an ecosystem on the forest floor

Bring your students to Harbison State Forest for a hands-on, engaging and fun learning experience!  All programs have been recently written to correlate with South Carolina 2014 Science and 2015 SCCCR Math Standards. Programs include a pre-visit activity that prepare students to get the most out of their visit to the forest.  Our programs teach students how to think, not what to think, and follow the AKCA model for environmental education: Awareness, Knowledge, Challenge & Action. 
These FREE programs are offered Tuesdays through Fridays at the Harbison State Forest Education Center. Programs can be modified to reach other specific learning objectives. Programs typically start at 9:30 a.m. and end by 12:45 p.m. Picnic tables are available for lunch but there are no on-site dining facilities. Schools must bring enough adults (teachers included) to achieve a 1:7 adult to student ratio.
For more information, or to reserve your school’s date and time, please contact Assistant Environmental Education Coordinator Beth Foley at bfoley@scfc.gov or (803) 896-8855.

We will be following the latest guidance and safety protocols from the CDC and SCDHEC to do our best to protect everybody from the risk of spread of COVID-19. In order to attend, all schools (children and adults) must follow the SC Forestry Commission’s COVID safety procedures:

  1. all participants wear masks indoors at all times while maintaining social distancing of at least 3 feet (all the learning stations are outdoors but the bathrooms are indoors)
  2. all participants wear masks outdoors when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained
  3. all student participants submit signed COVID release-of-liability forms

If the county of the program location or county of the school has a Cumulative Incidence Rate (as determined by SCDHEC) higher than “Moderate” at any time leading up to the event (up to 3 weeks beforehand), then the program will be canceled or the school’s invitation will rescinded.

Program descriptions

First grade

Kids measure tree diameter.

Program 1: Earth’s natural resources
Science Standards: 1.E.4A.1, 1.E.4B.1, 1.E.4B.2
Math Standards: 1.MDA.1, 1.MDA.2
Students will investigate the properties of Earth’s natural resources and learn about ways that they can be conserved. Students will study the soils in a forest habitat to learn about its composition and structure.  They will learn how trees benefit our environment and society and how we can help conserve natural resources through a fun paper-making activity.  Students will study a forest environment and compare objects they observe by their length.

Program 2: Plants and their environments
Science Standards: 1.L.5A.1, 1.L.5A.2, 1.L.5B.2, 1.L.5B.3
Math Standards: 1.MDA.4, 1.MDA.5
Students will learn how plants survive and how they respond to changes in their environment.  Working in a team, students will go on a seed scavenger hunt and then learn about different seed dispersal methods for different species and environments.  They will act out the life cycle of a tree and create a tree using themselves as the parts. They will learn the positives and negatives of fire in a forest and how plants and animals are adapted to deal with fire.  Students will observe, measure, record data, make graphs, and draw conclusions about what they have learned. 

Third grade

Program 1: Forest Ecosystems
Science Standards: 3.L.5A.1, 3.L.5A.2
Math Standards: 3.MDA.3, 3.MDA.4
Students will take an in-depth look at 3 different forest habitats to learn about their characteristics and how those environments support a variety of organisms including producers, consumers, and decomposers.  At each site, students will record data on soil, sunlight, wind, temperature, topography, plant life, and animal life.  Then students will organize, graph, and interpret their data to draw conclusions about the similarities and differences between the forest habitats.

Program 2: Effects of habitat changes
Science Standards: 3.L.5B.1, 3.L.5B.2
Math Standards: 3.MDA.3, 3.MDA.4
Students will examine how plants and animals respond when their habitats change.  They will learn how changes are sometimes beneficial and sometimes harmful and that they can occur naturally or by the organisms that live in them. Students will become trees in a forest and learn how trees are affected by competition for resources and by natural or human-caused events. They will be collecting, organizing, and graphing data that will be analyzed to draw conclusions.

Fifth grade

Matt teaches about tree cookies.

Program 1: Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
Science Standards: 5.L.4A.1, 5.L.4A.2
Math Standards: 5.MDA.1, 5.MDA.4
Students will works in teams to collect, analyze, and interpret data from different terrestrial and aquatic forest environments.  They will then summarize and communicate their conclusions about the living and non-living components of the different forest environments and how the different plants and animals are adapted to those environments. Students will get to use tools to collect information on temperature, diameter, wind speed, and soil characteristics.

Program 2: Ecosystem interactions
Science Standards: 5.L.4B.1, 5.L.4B.2, 5.L.4B.3, 5.L.4B.4
Math Standards: 5.G.1, 5.G.2
Students will learn about the flow of energy through the biotic components of ecosystems including producers, consumers, and decomposers.  They will become a part of a food chain and food web in a forest environment to learn how energy flows through it.  Students will experience first-hand how a deer population reacts to limiting factors by becoming part of a deer herd.  By collecting and plotting data on a coordinate system and then looking for trends, students will see how limiting factors can affect an ecosystem.

Seventh grade

Program 1: Forest ecosystems: organization and effects on populations
Science Standards: 7.EC.5A.1, 7.EC.5A.3
Math Standards: 7.GM.4
Students will develop and use models to describe the characteristics of the levels of organization within forest ecosystems. They will collect data and make observations on how fire has played a role in developing each ecological level in two different forest ecosystems. Students will also learn how limiting factors can affect a forest by becoming trees in a hands-on game. 

Program 2: Population dynamics and energy flow
Science Standards: 7.EC.5B.1, 7.EC.5B.2, 7.EC.5B.3, 7.EC.5B.4
Students will learn how the forests are dynamic and are ever-changing in response to natural and human-caused events. Students will act out food chains and food webs to show how energy flows through an ecosystem.  Students will study the balance of ecosystems and how the introduction of new species may affect this balance. 

High school

Programs are tailored to the needs and learning objectives of the specific class and teacher.  Typical classes that use Harbison State Forest for field laboratory exercises include Biology I, Environmental Studies, AP Environmental Science, and Agricultural Science classes studying forestry.

Download a 4-page printout of ALL the programs listed above.


Informal programs (home-school groups, day camps)

These FREE programs will be offered Tuesdays through Fridays at the Harbison State Forest Environmental Education Center. Programs can be modified to reach other specific learning objectives. Programs are free and typically start at 10 a.m. and end by 12 p.m. The first hour will consist of a forest hike, and in the second hour students will participate in hands-on Project Learning Tree and Project WILD activities. Picnic tables are available for lunch afterwards, but there are no on-site dining facilities. Groups must bring enough adults to achieve a 1:7 adult to student ratio. 
For more information, or to reserve your school’s date and time, please contact Assistant Environmental Education Coordinator Beth Foley at bfoley@scfc.gov or (803) 896-8855.

Program descriptions

K–Second grade

Program 1: Tree growth
Students will be learn how trees grow and obtain the natural resources needed to survive in the forest. They will age tree cookies (cross sections of a tree) by counting growth rings and will create their own life as a tree cookie. Students will all become a living part of tree to learn its function as well as act out the lifecycle of a tree.

Program 2: Using your senses in the forest
Students will learn how living organisms use their five senses to survive in the forest. They will play a game to explore how birds communicate through song. Students will also become beetles that communicate through their sense of smell to discover the use of pheromones.

Third–fifth grade

Program 1: Forest ecology
Students will learn about forest ecology and ecosystem interactions. They will become a biotic organism in a food web to learn about the flow of energy in a forest ecosystem. Students will examine a rotting log to investigate the importance of decomposers.

Program 2: Animal adaptations in the forest
Students will explore how animals have adapted to live in their preferred habitat types. They will partake in a game called “Birds and Worms” to learn about the importance of camouflage with predator and prey relationships. Students will partake in an activity to explore how prey organisms also change their behavior to avoid detection in the forest.

Sixth–eighth grade

Program 1: Survival in the forest
Students will learn how plants and animals survive in the forest. They will participate in an activity called “Every Tree for Itself” where they will become trees that must collect the basic resources needed to survive. Students will also become deer that need to acquire the four habitat components needed in a forest ecosystem.

Program 2: Fire in the forest
Students will learn about the benefits of prescribed fire in a managed forest. They will get to explore how wildfires are different than controlled burns and can be very destructive in a “Fire Tag” game. They will also compete in a challenge to build the best campfire while discovering how fuels burn in the forest.

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For more information, contact Matt Schnabel, Environmental Education Coordinator, at (803) 896-8892 or Harbison Environmental Education Forest at (803) 896-8890.