A few weekends ago our family enjoyed a day trip to Lake Talquin State Forest, where we discovered and thoroughly explored Bear Creek Educational Forest.  We packed a picnic, our bikes, some outdoors games and activities and we were off.  Since we were there on a Sunday afternoon, the classroom was closed, but we had full access to picnic pavilions, clean restrooms, the hiking trail and plenty of expansive outdoor space.


First we enjoyed a picnic in the the open field, under the pine trees, outside of the trail.  Then, we began down the trail and discovered just what the Talking Trees Trail we read about online before visiting, was all about.  The kids had an absolute blast running from tree to tree along the path, pressing the buttons to hear the recording of the park ranger and others, explaining the history of the forest and about the types of plants and trees we were seeing.  They touched the plants when they were told to and practiced saying the names of the wide variety of trees they learned about.  There was double to learn since each of them had to press each button themselves.

After our walk through the Talking Trees Trail, we found a favorite spot to relax for a bit and brought out the colored pencils and sketch paper we had packed.  Although I wouldn’t call any of us artists, we each had fun pretending, carefully creating our masterpieces of forest scenes.

Next we brought out the bikes and went through the trail again on bike.  This time we ventured further in to the forest and found a dock over a part of the lake with nice benches for a water break and some picture taking.  When we got back to the beginning of the trail, we brought out our games and toys and enjoyed those for a while…kite flying, racket ball, soccer, toy airplanes and more.

Once everyone was all tired out, we packed everything up and headed home.  We had a great time and cannot wait to go back.  Keep reading below, to learn more about this area and all there is to take advantage of at Bear Creek Educational Forest.

About

Bear Creek Educational Forest is a 492-acre tract of Lake Talquin State Forest. Programs are FREE for any public or private school group, Scout Troop, daycare, or any other youth organization. Each program option may include a lesson, game, and hands-on activity in the forest.  An interpretive hike and souvenir craft to make and take home may also be included. The Bear Creek Tract also offers hiking and camping opportunities as well as the audio enhanced Living Forest trail where the trees tell their own stories. A list of the Florida Sunshine State Standards addressed in each program is available upon request.

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Facilities

  • Air-conditioned classroom with seating for 60 students
  • Three nature trails ranging in length, including a paved “talking tree” trail and arboretum
  • Picnic shelter where students can eat lunch
  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Full-time staff available to guide FREE programs

Programs

Fire Management: Grades K-12
Learn about forest fires from Smokey Bear himself and a game where students become firefighters!  Older students can see firefighting equipment up close.

Photosynthesis Fun: Grades 4-6
Understand photosynthesis through exciting games and activities.

Forest Products: Grades K-12
Find out which household items we are able to use each day thanks to trees.

Water Wonders: Grades 4-12
Students can learn about aquatic organisms by closely observing pond life.

Animal Adventures: Grades K-2
Animal adaptations, camouflage, and the food chain are made fun through games and a scavenger hunt.

Tree ID: Grades 4-12
Take a journey through the forest and identify trees using a dichotomous key.

Decomposition Broken Down: Grades 2-5
Use hand lenses to take a closer look at decaying logs and find out what helps break them down.

Orienteering Adventure: Grades 4-12
Never get lost again!  Learn how to use a compass and find your way in the woods.

Ecosystem Exploration: Grades 2-6
Compare the differences in ecosystems by studying the forest, pond, and yard.

Soil Digs: Grades 5-12
Discover what goes on beneath your feet by looking at soil’s layers and organisms.

Forester for a Day: Grades 3-12
Forestry tools will help students decide just how old or large trees actually are.

What to Bring

Students should dress for a day outdoors, possibly in older clothing and comfortable walking shoes. The following items are recommended:

  • Bottle of water
  • Insect repellent
  • Long pants
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sack lunch