Alabama Wildlife Federation
by Tim Huffman
“We want to grow the next generation of conservation leaders and ensure a quality outdoor future for Alabama.” AWF
We at CrappieNow are all about catching fish, especially crappie. We love being on the water. It’s our passion and desire. A recent trip to the Alabama Wildlife Federation revealed there are many things more important than catching a crappie. The AWF teaches thousands of youngsters, allowing them to experience the outdoors to learn about fish, wildlife, woods and water. For many of the kids, it’s their first time in the outdoors…both amazing and sad to those of us who have spent years hunting, fishing, camping and being outdoors. We applaud AWF for their great efforts to help give these kids a feel and understanding of the outdoors.
“The kids we are watching at the pond,” says Communications Specialist, Marla Ruskin. “They are gathering things in their nets, putting small fish and insects into the clear jars and learning from the instructor about the things they find. Up to 350 kids a day, divided into small groups, participate in a variety of activities chosen by the group. Just look at the excitement in their faces finding things in their nets. Our activities are fun so the kids enjoy what they are doing while they are learning.”
Founded in 1935, the AWF has worked to educate about the proper use, management and restoration of the state’s wildlife, forests, fish, waters and soil. Recognizing the growing disconnect between children, tomorrow’s leaders and the land, AWF elevated conservation education to priority status in 1994.
Discovering Our Heritage Program, a guide for teachers, and Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program providing guidance for outdoor learning sites on school grounds, were two early programs. Advance to 2015 and the NaturePlex, a powerful, empowering addition, is a reality with the purpose of reaching more youth and adults with a conservation message. NaturePlex is a 23,000 square foot facility that serves as a Welcome Center, Education Center, 120-seat theater, Discovery Center and much more. The 350 acres at Lanark include several buildings including the NaturePlex, boardwalks, forests, fields, streams, wetlands and ponds.
The AWF is a private, charitable organization with over 25,000 members and supporters. They work with 342 public and private schools and have over 6,000 students registered for field trips this spring. The general public is welcome. For a $5 per person fee they can use any of the five miles of boardwalks and trails, explore the new Discovery Hall, view movies, visit the gift shop and participate in scheduled programs.
“Catching their first fish, touching a snake and learning important conservation facts are all important introductions to loving the outdoors,” says Ruskin. “We believe the memories and learning they get here will last a lifetime.”
For more information, visit: alabamawildlife.org.