Treetops-in-the-Forest, a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to provide environmental education for students of all ages, sits on 20 pine-covered acres in the Davy Crockett National Forest, near one of Texas’ oldest wildernesses, The Big Slough. A national hiking trail runs through the area.
The focus of environmental education at Treetops is to encourage the child to explore the connections of nature to arts, science, social studies,
languages, math, and all the humanities, and is based on the recent research of Edward Wilson on “Consilience – The Unity of Knowledge” and the earlier research by Thoreau, Leopold, Montessori, et al.
The grounds include orienteering trails, a pond for fishing and water studies, sustainability projects, child-built shelters, and access to the national hiking trails. Upon arrival, students assume responsibility for management of the facility for the length of their stay. Agreements are made regarding environmental choices, such as: Compost or Critter Food? Plastic or Paper? How much water in showering? Students assist in meal preparation and service, maintenance, security,grounds work, and indoor roles.
There are opportunities for individual initiatives and artistic pursuits. Guest lecturers and environmental videos are shown and discussed during evening hours. Students create the daily schedule, which allows blocks of time for meals, practical life responsibilities, environmental studies, individual initiatives, artistic pursuits, and outdoor activities. Field trips may be planned to relevant sites, such as the Caddoan Indian Mounds, the Tejas Mission, The Old Stone Fort, El Camino Real, and trips to seasonal festivals, orchards, and nearby community concerts.
Students sleep four to six per room. With the visiting school’s staff, a ratio of one teacher per six to ten students is maintained. Whenever possible, a group size no greater than 18-24 students is recommended. Pre-visit conferences with school heads and teachers are welcomed so that the content may complement prior studies.
Generally, participants are transported to the campus by their sponsoring schools or by parent carpools. Most metropolitan – DFW, Austin, and Houston – are a three to four hour drive.