HCWA hosts field trips for 3,000-plus Cubihatcha Kids

It was 20 years ago when the first class of “Cubihatcha Kids” formed from the Outdoor Education Partnership between the Henry County Water Authority (HCWA) and Henry County Schools. 

As a result of this award-winning educational program, more than 50,000 Henry County students have enjoyed field trips to the HCWA Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center in Locust Grove since 2003, featuring a unique outdoor educational experience for all participants. 

This year’s class of Cubihatcha Kids totaled more than 3,000, as every third grader in Henry County Schools had an opportunity to enjoy the Cubihatcha Center’s outdoor classrooms and activities, which complemented what they are learning in school. The school field trips took place during a two-week period, which concluded at the end of September. 

According to Authority officials, the logistical challenge of getting that many students through four daily classes over a 10-day stretch is worth it when considering the payoff academically and socially for the Cubihatcha Kids.

“Being able to see the spark in a child’s eyes when they learn about the outdoors is truly amazing,” says Todd Brackin, Conservation Enforcement Specialist with the HCWA, who also served as an instructor for the Native American artifacts class during the field trips this year. “Children today spend so much time glued to screens, so finding a balance can be a struggle. Nature can provide that balance and this event opens that world to them.”

The field trips to the Cubihatcha Center provide opportunities for experiential or “hands-on” learning for students through outdoor classes, which intentionally correspond with the third grade Georgia Standards for Excellence and Applied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Curricula. In addition, the field trips encourage student appreciation of natural resources and awareness of the HCWA’s role in the community. 

“I love getting children excited about nature,” says Rebecca Bodron, HCWA Naturalist and Cubihatcha Kids instructor. “I believe the first step in getting a child’s mind moving is getting them interested in the subject, and this event does that.”

“It’s a beautiful thing knowing that we are nurturing the next generation of environmental stewards,” adds Lorenzo Bennett, HCWA Naturalist and Cubihatcha Kids instructor.

During this year’s Cubihatcha Kids field trips, the students spent their designated day participating in activities led by the Cubihatcha Center staff and other HCWA employees, as well as volunteer faculty from sponsoring organizations and community partners. Students enjoyed lessons on topics such as: Native Wildlife and Habitat, Native American Artifacts, Farming, Community Gardens, Forestry, Stormwater Education and Enviroscape, the properties of water, the proper disposal of Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG), and more.

The HCWA Cubihatcha Center was built to coincide with the Authority’s wetlands mitigation plan, which accompanied the construction of its reservoir network. The HCWA owns and operates five drinking water reservoirs for its customers. Shortly after the Cubihatcha Center opened, the staff began hosting field trips for Henry County students, and the Center has grown into a focal point of HCWA public education and outreach ever since.

The Cubihatcha Center consists of 1,000 acres of bottomland hardwood, forested wetlands and uplands, nature trails, outdoor classrooms, a community pavilion, the HCWA Reservoir and Land Management office, avenues for outdoor recreation, and other amenities.

While the field trips were not held during the two years of 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic, the 18 years of field trips have brought the HCWA and its partners considerable recognition from industry associations and public educators. The HCWA has won the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) Public Education Program of the Year Award on three occasions, as well as GAWP Public Education Program Excellence Awards since the Cubihatcha Kids program was founded. In addition, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District has awarded the HCWA and its Cubihatcha Center with the STREAM Award for Education and Outreach Program Excellence.

The HCWA’s support of local students is well documented, with several Authority programs targeting different age groups from K-12 in Henry County Schools.

In addition to the elementary school students who experience the annual field trips to the Cubihatcha Center, the Authority also hosts middle school students for a Model Water Tower Competition each fall (scheduled for Friday, Nov. 3, 2023). Furthermore, high school students took part in the first “Water Works Experience” summer camp in July, which preceded the first high school class to complete a Summer Internship Program through a partnership between the Authority and Southern Crescent Technical College.

Captions for photos (top to bottom):

More than 3,000 third grade students from Henry County Schools enjoyed field trips to the HCWA Cubihatcha Center in Locust Grove last month.

Students from Michelle Cole’s third grade class at Mount Carmel Elementary School enjoy a class on crayfish during their annual field trip to the HCWA Cubihatcha Center.

Todd Brackin, HCWA Conservation Enforcement Specialist, teachers a class on Native American artifacts during this year’s Cubihatcha Kids third grade field trips.

Lindsey Sanders (right), HCWA Communications and Regulatory Coordinator, teaches third graders about stormwater pollution during the recent Cubihatcha Kids field trips.



Media Contact:     Chris Wood, Ph.D.

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