Enchanted Forest

GWU Students Teach Children about Nocturnal Animals

Hands-on Learning

Every year the trails at the Broad River Greenway near Boiling Springs, N.C., become an “Enchanted Forest” with the help of students from Gardner-Webb University. Dressed in animal costumes, the students tell local children and their families about their animal’s habits and importance to the ecosystem.

The evening is a favorite for Kim Duren, Broad River Greenway executive director. “Each year, I am more and more impressed with the Gardner-Webb students as they prepare for this event,” she observed. “I love hearing the children tell parents which animal was their favorite and why.”

Dr. Tom Jones, professor of biology and associate dean of the honors program, said producing the two-night program requires over 80 students. As the children wait for forest tour guides, they participate in face painting, crafts and games. “Visitors are accompanied by two guides to visit the various nocturnal animals—rat, spider, bobcat, frog, owl, bat, bear, turtle, mosquito, opossum, luna moth and caterpillar, firefly, skunk and fox,” he shared.

The event is one of many service-learning opportunities for GWU students, and most of the volunteers are from the Honors Program. Junior psychology major, Mallory Baucom, has volunteered since she was a freshman. “I love that we are able to provide an educational and friendly event to children in the community during the Halloween season,” Baucom observed. “It never gets old to see how excited and enthusiastic the children are that animals are talking to them.”

Bryan Morales-Gonzalez, junior computer information systems major, and Gracie Chapman, freshman psychology major, put on animal costumes and visited children at the local elementary schools to invite them to the event. “Children were so eager to run up to me to give me high fives,” Morales-Gonzalez described. “My goal was to put a smile on the children’s faces while teaching them a little about my animal, the rat.”

Learn more about the University’s Honors Program