Classrooms and Facilities

131 FW 3
FWM Number
Originating Office
Division of Facilities and Operations (NCTC)

3.1 Purpose. This chapter describes outdoor classrooms and facility use by teachers and students and provides guidance for site development.

3.2 Objectives. The objectives for outdoor classrooms and the use of facilities for environmental education are:

A. To provide opportunities for teachers and students to achieve an understanding of ecological concepts and of fish and wildlife resource management practices through hands-on experiences.

B. To involve the public, particularly teachers and students, in the work of the Service.

C. To encourage the development of individual skills and abilities that will result in teachers and students becoming good stewards and taking a more active role in the enhancement of fish and wildlife resources.

3.3 Opportunities.

A. The Service provides both indoor and outdoor study sites and facilities to support Service environmental education programs. The availability and abundance of these resources will vary from location to location. They are dependent upon the suitability of Service areas for such amenities as well as the level of onsite programming and teacher training activities underway or proposed for the location.

B. Within the Service, refuges and hatcheries have traditionally offered the widest variety of opportunities for environmental study because of their land-based status. Subsequently, they have also provided the majority of Service study areas and facilities to support these efforts. However, law enforcement and ecological services have opportunities for environmental education that need to be assessed and developed. These programs could provide study areas and facilities, if properly explored.

C. The Service also participates in offsite activities at schools and other locations. These opportunities are discussed in 131 FW 5.4C.

3.4 Outdoor Use.

A. Sites. The use of lands for environmental education requires that study areas be universally accessible, safe, located close to restrooms/comfort stations, be adaptable to disturbance, have the potential for expansion and/or rotation, and be compatible with site or station purposes and objectives. Study areas should also be representative of habitat types and provide opportunities for groups to understand basic ecosystem principles and, where appropriate, illustrate various aspects of fish and wildlife management. Outdoor study area development should include an examination of access roads, parking, and space for bus turn-around; accessibility for the handicapped; and availability of drinking water, toilets, shelters, and overnight camping capabilities (where appropriate). In addition, certain Service locations may have sensitive developmental concerns which should be addressed, as well as public use carrying capacity (potential impacts of public use). A thorough examination of potential sites should be made before final selection and development takes place.

B. Site Management. Management of study areas must be considered. Even with low-impact use, wildlife and site disturbance can occur. The rate and intensity of this disturbance will depend upon the ecosystem type, soils, and climate as well as frequency, rate, and duration of use. Study areas must be monitored and regularly rotated to avoid "wear" that results from overuse. Rotation schedules should be developed and implemented and limits for carrying capacity established to appropriately manage use.

3.5 Indoor Facilities.

A. General. Auditoriums, classrooms, exhibit areas, or conference rooms are found in Service visitor centers, environmental education centers, and administrative buildings. These spaces can be used for environmental education purposes such as orientations, workshops, backup sites in the event of inclement weather, or for conducting activities that are best suited for an indoor setting. Attention should also be given to provision and storage of equipment and materials, such as audiovisual items (projectors, flip charts, chalkboards, tape recorders, etc.), study tools (binoculars, microscopes, etc.), wildlife collections, publication materials, and displays.

B. Compatibility. The use of indoor facilities requires that groups, visitors, and staff who may be using the facility concurrently be sensitive to noise levels and other disturbance factors. Proper scheduling and appropriate use of indoor space can ensure that multiple use is compatible.

3.6 Equipment and Materials.

A. Equipment. A basic, well-maintained collection of equipment should be provided by Service field stations and offices with environmental education programs. These items are particularly important to Service locations having onsite facilities and study areas. This equipment may be acquired in numerous ways. The Service may purchase or obtain surplus property items such as binoculars and microscopes and allow schools to use them onsite; items may be acquired and donated by a cooperating association program; and parent/teacher associations and similar groups may make donations. Gift catalogs are yet another means of generating donations for environmental education purposes. Items that are frequently stocked for student/teacher use include such things as dissecting microscopes, hand lenses, non-breakable containers, collecting nets and buckets, boots, dissecting kits, binoculars and other viewing equipment, plastic bags, and clipboards and writing equipment. Optional equipment may include canoes and related safety equipment, as appropriate to the field station.

B. Resource Materials. Resource libraries for environmental education programs are useful to both Service employees and teachers. These libraries should be maintained at field stations and appropriate Service offices to provide environmental education materials for teachers, employees, and other group leaders for assistance in program planning. Materials to be included in resource libraries are site-specific resource publications, instructional materials such as lesson plans and teacher guides, activities, reference books and periodicals, films and film catalogs, slide shows, videos, computer software, leaflets, and posters. To avoid duplication, these libraries should be coordinated with the Regional film and video loan libraries currently operating under the administration of Public Affairs. Libraries are also addressed in Part 125.

3.7 Safety.

A. General. The Service has a responsibility to provide safe, accessible, non-hazardous study areas to participants engaged in environmental education activities. Specific safety concerns include the separation of participants and vehicular traffic. The need to cross busy roads should be avoided if at all possible or, if unavoidable, crossings should be aptly marked. Access into maintenance areas or hazardous work sites shall not be permitted. Separation from hunting and trapping activities is also required. Participants should be adequately prepared for environmental hazards such as poisonous or rash-causing plants and animals, deep water, cliffs, and the like. In areas where extreme weather conditions may exist or periodically develop (flash floods, lightning, fires, sudden drops in temperature), participants should be made aware of safety precautions, emergency procedures, and location of safety equipment and shelter. Appropriate permission slips for minors must be arranged through schools prior to site visits.

B. Supervision. Appropriate supervision, communications equipment, and safety and first aid supplies must also be readily available. In addition, emphasis should be placed on informing teachers and students about the sensitivity of resources and the need to obey signs, to respect plant and animal life, and to minimize impacts to the environment.