ANCA CONNECTS: Nature's Classroom Environmental Education Center in Thonotosassa, Florida [Canceled]

May 30 2024


This program has been canceled.

Thursday, May 30 — 11am-3pm ET (optional morning activities begin at 9:30am)

Join us for an enriching day of professional development and networking at Nature's Classroom Environmental Education Center in Thonotosassa, Florida, less than 20 miles from downtown Tampa. This CONNECTS program offers you the opportunity to connect with professional peers while learning about the operations of nature centers, outdoor schools, and related organizations. 

riverAs a site of the Hillsborough County Public Schools, Nature's Classroom Environmental Education Center offers outdoor opportunities to learners of all ages. Since 1972 Nature's Classroom has provided a multi-day program to every sixth-grade student within the school district, which this year includes a three-day field study for over 17,000 students. In addition to the sixth-grade program, Nature's Classroom provides summer camps, high school and elementary programming, and professional development for formal and informal educators.

This program includes discussion-based sessions about operations at nature centers and outdoor schools. These sessions invite all participants to contribute to the discussion, so that you can hear a variety of perspectives from professionals at other organizations. Program participants will be able to suggest session topics — this allows you to bring any question where you'd like insights from professional peers.

Throughout the program you will have opportunities to connect with peers and build your professional network. As such you will not only have new ideas and resources to implement at your organization following this CONNECTS, but you will also gain professional connections that can support your work throughout the year.

This ANCA CONNECTS program is for any professional at a nature center, outdoor school, or related organization. We welcome both ANCA members and non-members along with professionals from outside the region to attend.



9:30-10:45am Optional activities at Nature's Classroom
If water levels allow, participants may take a scenic boat trip on the Hillsborough River. If the water is too low, we'll take a walk through the woods, primarily on a boardwalk.
10am  Check-in begins
11am Welcome
11:15am-12:15pm Tour of Nature's Classroom
Visit the Animal Sanctuary and explore the Interpretive Center, including a hands-on interaction with animal ambassadors.
12:30-1:30pm Lunch & Networking
1:45-2:45pm Open Space Sessions
2:45-3pm  Wrap-up and farewell



This CONNECTS will use an Open Space format where any participant can suggest a session topic; all participants then collectively decide which session topics will be held.

Sessions are discussion-based, where participants contribute to the conversation and a facilitator guides the dialogue to keep the discussions on track and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate. These discussions allow you to share with your peers, learn new ideas, and work together to find solutions.

If you suggest a topic and it is chosen as a session, you will be asked to introduce the topic and facilitate the discussion among the participants. Because all participants contribute to the conversation, as the facilitator you do not need to be perceived as the expert in the room; you can simply start the conversation and engage accordingly.

This system allows you to collaboratively create your experience, and provides the opportunity for you to be an active participant rather than a passive listener.

Session Topics

Topics may include any subject pertaining to the management of nature centers and related organizations, as well as trends in our profession. 

Examples of topics include:

Advocacy and civic engagement
Capital campaigns
Database management
Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Endowments and investing

Exhibit planning
Marketing and communications
Membership programs
Nature playscape construction
Nature preschool management

Program management
Risk management
Strategic and master planning
Working with a board of directors
Workplace environments


About Nature's Classroom

As a site of the Hillsborough County Public Schools, Nature's Classroom Environmental Education Center provides outdoor opportunities to learners of all ages. In 1972, the Southwest Florida Management District partnered with the school system to provide the current 365-acre site of natural lands along the Hillsborough River and has since been the location of a multi-day program for every sixth-grade student within the school district. This year over 17,000 students will attend a three-day field study of the local watershed. 

For many students, the opportunity to attend Nature's Classroom will be their first chance to explore the outdoors. These memorable experiences build the foundation of responsible stewardship. Nature's Classroom's mission is to plant the seeds of conservation and create lifelong guardians of nature through hands-on environmental education.


In addition to the sixth-grade program, Nature's Classroom provides summer camps, auxiliary high school and elementary programming, professional development for formal and informal educators, and events for alumni and community members.



Address: 13100 Verges Road / Thonotosassa, FL 33592
Directions on Google Maps