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AMAZING ANIMALS (Animal Adaptations)
Animals have some amazing adaptations to help them survive! In this class students will first define the term “adaptation” and then learn about the two types: physical and behavioral. They will get to see first hand how their favorite animals' adaptation helps them survive.  By holding both living and non-living examples, students will learn about Carolus Linnaeus, the father of taxonomic order, and Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection.  

There have been nefarious happenings at River Ridge and we need your students' help.  With our trails as the scene, we will investigate the evidence animals leave behind.  Honing in on our skills of observation, students will learn to identify signs: an animal may leave a chew mark on a leaf or a pile of its scat as it’s calling card. In this class, gumshoes will learn about seven different clues that tell us animals are all around and will see and collect first hand examples of these clues. These young investigators will end the class compiling a lineup of possible suspects based on the evidence (herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, hair evidence, tooth impressions) and their alibis (nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular).  All critter suspects are innocent until proven guilty.


DISCOVERY HIKE (Nature Hike with Forest Ecology)
This excursion is for groups who want to explore as much of our 140 acres as possible! This 3 hour hike is an expansion of our forest ecology class (Into the Woods) but also includes sensory awareness and tree identification.  Students and chaperones will hike all the way to our third peninsula to discover trickling creeks, mossy outcrops, shoreline beaches, a towering sycamore tree, beautiful overlooks and anything else nature may send their way. Recommended for 5th grade and up.

(Environmental Awareness and Action)

Because people have the power to affect the environment through their actions, they also have a responsibility to take care of it. This course will focus on sustainability, each person’s ecological footprint, the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) and what students themselves can do to help make the earth a better place to live.

GET YOUR BEARINGS (Orienteering)
The compass is a valuable instrument in the outdoors. In this class students will not only learn how to use a compass but will also learn the physical and mathematical principles on which the compass is based. Students will learn how to take a bearing, follow a direction and pace to determine distance. After a few practice activities, students then put these skills to use on the River Ridge compass course to find a secret message. Our orienteering course combines challenge, ingenuity and physical activity to require students to develop their compass skills to a fine "degree."


IN COLD BLOOD (Reptiles and Amphibians)
In this course students will learn about herpetology: the study of reptiles and amphibians. Classes will compare reptiles with amphibians to determine their common characteristics and differences. Students will have a chance to touch or handle various frogs, salamanders, lizards, turtles and non-venomous snakes from our Nature Center. Students will learn about how herpetofauna are important to an ecosystem, why they are meaningful to study and possibly clear up some misconceptions they may have about these fascinating animals.

INTO THE WOODS (Forest Ecology)
The forest is the subject as well as the classroom in “Into the Woods!” Students will discover the forms of life common to a forest community. They will gain a first hand understanding of the three components of the forest ecosystem - producers, consumers and decomposers. Students will then discover how these components interact with one another by using their keen skills of observation. They will get to know the differences between biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors and how they can change the forest landscape. While hiking and exploring, students may have the opportunity to examine a rotten log, search for tracks and other animal signs or maybe see some live animals!  

LAKE LIFE (Aquatic Ecology)
Watts Bar Lake is the perfect location to study the ecology of a lake community. Students will discover the various forms of life, food chains, cycles and environmental influences found in this aquatic ecosystem. Vocabulary like habitat, niche, predator and prey are reiterated to students as they explore, collect and study the organisms they find. Students will participate in activities that demonstrate how important suitable habitat is to aquatic life and ways humans affect the ecosystem. After collection, the class will determine the health of the ecosystem by looking at bio-indicators.
**Students will be wading in the lake, so be sure to remind them to bring appropriate clothes and shoes that tie or strap to their feet.***  

***Because of the weather, this class is recommended for late spring through early fall.***

NATIVE WAYS (Native American Studies)
“Native Ways” takes students on a journey through time as they learn about the life of Native Americans throughout history in this area of Tennessee. Students will have the opportunity to experience several aspects of Native American life, which may include pictographs, hunting, gathering, games, and stories. While visiting the center’s 3 Native American mounds, students will discover how native people may have used these formations. The Native American’s respect for nature and connection to the environment is emphasized throughout the course.

PIONEER DAYS (Pioneer Life)
“Pioneer Days” aims to instill in students both an appreciation for their past and a sense of place in their present. Learning of the hardships that the American pioneers endured will attempt to give students a new respect for the human spirit. Performing some of the daily tasks of the early American settlers (dipping candles, making butter, making rope, etc.) will lead to an increased understanding and appreciation for the life these pioneers lived. The interdependence among families in a community and the wise allocation and conservation of limited resources in the past compared to modern times is also brought to light.


The rotten world of fungi is much more than just mushrooms! Often overlooked, or even shunned, this kingdom includes wonderfully diverse and fascinating species. Students will learn how fungi differ from plants, discover the common characteristics of all fungi and then take a hike to discover the amazing amount and variety of fungi right under their noses. Along the hike students will classify fungi into groups based on their methods of reproduction, investigate the mysterious relationship between fungi and algae, and see first hand the roles fungi play in the ecosystem. Finally they’ll learn how fungi are important to people in every day life.
For some reason people do not think of insects as animals, yet this group makes up 90% of all the living creatures on earth! In this course students will discover the special characteristics that make an insect, an insect. They will also explore the various and fascinating ways that insects overcome the challenges of their environment through participating in activities that focus on insect defense, camouflage and communication. In addition students will learn that insects aren’t so bad - many provide valuable products and services for people.  


Fish make up the largest group of vertebrates. In “Something’s Fishy” students will learn all about this immense and impressive group of animals. They will discover the basic characteristics of all fish, types of fish adaptations, how fish move and how they fit into the food web. Students may even get to investigate the age of a fish by closely observing one scale! They’ll even get to test the belief “the smarter you are about fish, the smarter you’ll be about fishing.” Students will explore methods and equipment used in sport fishing, make their own hand-crafted lure and then attempt to find out what’s fishy in the Tennessee River. Students will discover the best ways of catching fish and find out how they can make sure this diverse species of animal will always swim in our waters.


Trees provide the source of several activities to help students develop identification skills and improve their “tree sense.” Students will learn the physical attributes and functions of a tree (heartwood, sapwood, cambium, phloem, bark, leaf shape etc.) and why they are so important to our existence on this planet. By working through a dichotomous key, students will journey through a tree identification course using their skills of observation and process of elimination to identify 18 of the most common trees found at River Ridge.
Life as we know it is not possible without water. Yet, despite its importance, water is a resource most of us take for granted. "Wild About Water" focuses on the water cycle, water's necessity to life and water resources. Students will learn about the various phases of precipitation, percolation, transportation, transpiration, evaporation and condensation by becoming a water molecule and traveling through the water cycle. Students will discover how the world’s water resources are distributed, make inferences about the importance of responsible water use, and explore the importance of protecting water resources in games like “How Many Gallons?”

John Knox Center
591 West Rockwood Ferry Road
Ten Mile, TN 37880
Phone: (865) 376-2236
Fax: (865) 376-1719
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