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Nebraska Forest Service, Wildcat Hills Nature Center launch ‘tree trunks’ program

Nebraska Forest Service, Wildcat Hills Nature Center launch ‘tree trunks’ program

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The Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) and Wildcat Hills Nature Center have entered a new partnership to bring the best in environmental education to Scottsbluff, Gering, and Nebraska’s Panhandle region.

Wildcat Hills Nature Center has signed on to become an “Affiliate Education Center,” providing Project Learning Tree and Project WET (Water Education Today) materials to the Nebraska panhandle. The nature center has agreed to house various activity kits — aptly coined ‘Tree Trunks’ — for check-out by local teachers, educators, and the public. Each kit includes curricula and materials to lead environmental education lessons with students. Additionally, Wildcat Hills Nature Center will host professional development opportunities focused on helping educators implement hands-on environmental education with their students.

“Our goal is to provide unique environmental learning opportunities for both teachers and their students, in order to inspire the next generation of tree planters in our great state,” Jack Hilgert, conservation educator at NFS, said in a press release. “This partnership aligns this goal with the excellent educational programming Wildcat Hills Nature Center provides to youth, educators, and the public.”

Becoming a Nebraska Forest Service certified Affiliate Education Center is a special designation for museums, nature centers and other educationally invested organizations that are especially focused on environmental and STEM education. The Nebraska Forest Service is rolling out this new program partnership with several partners this month including the Hastings Museum, University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) in Lincoln, and Keep Omaha Beautiful.

“We are excited to expand our educational offerings through this partnership. The Nebraska Forest Service has created some outstanding materials that will help teachers educate the future caretakers of our planet,” Amanda Filipi, outdoor education specialist at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, said.

Project Learning Tree uses forests as a “window to the world” to increase understanding of our complex environment. Project WET advances water education to understand global challenges and inspire local solutions. Both programs cultivate awareness and appreciation for Nebraska’s natural resources while stimulating the ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues, the commitment to take responsible action, and the aptitude to select sustainable choices to conserve these resources for future generations.

During the inaugural year of the program, the NFS plans to establish several of these regionally focused partnerships thanks to grant funds provided by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Eventually, the agency hopes to have a community-level presence in all regions of the Cornhusker state.

Any organizations interested in becoming an Affiliate Education Center should contact Jack Hilgert, at or 402-472-4749.

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