Take a walk on the wild side of education

The NWTF’s headquarters is the ultimate outdoor education experience

08/23/2010  | 
conteaching through travel

Ten-year-old Evan smiled as he climbed out of the Forest Service helicopter from his tag-along mission to improve habitat for wildlife.  The hum of the propellers and the roar of the engine in the flight simulator were something he didn’t want his friend Keisha to miss.  He found her across the room holding a wild turkey feather and listening to a wise Native American elder tell stories of how his people used wildlife to sustain themselves long ago.  The two fifth-graders and their classmates were in the middle of an exciting field trip to the Wild Turkey Center and Winchester Museum in Edgefield, S.C.

Nestled between the pine plantations and historical attractions of Edgefield is the home of one of North America’s most influential and well-respected conservation organizations – the National Wild Turkey Federation.  For years, the NWTF’s Wild Turkey Center and Winchester Museum, and the nature trails that crisscross the NWTF’s wooded property, have been open to teachers, students and families to learn about wildlife and the great outdoors.

The museum attracts more than 10,000 visitors each year who learn the importance of conservation through interactive exhibits like a retired, full-size USDA Forest Service helicopter that features a simulated prescribed burn mission.  Animatronic characters, elaborate wildlife displays and rare photographs give a historical perspective to the greatest conservation success story ever told – the comeback of the North American wild turkey.

Visitors can learn how to sustain well-managed wildlife habitat by stepping outside the museum to the Federation’s 125-acre Outdoor Education Center, which features a series of nature trails lined by managed habitat sites.  A large outdoor pavilion overlooking a beautiful pond is the perfect setting to enjoy nature during outdoor classes, seminars or lunch.

For a hands-on outdoor experience, the NWTF offers many unique group adventures.  The “Creek Stomp” is a favorite of both students and teachers and features a day of exploring the aquatic habitat of Turkey Creek at nearby Sumter National Forest.  Students can also use teamwork and tools such as binoculars, nets and compasses during the “Nature Treasure Hunt.”  Several other outdoor activities offer a variety of learning experiences and can be tailored to fit any age group.

The friendly and knowledgeable staff at the Wild Turkey Center can accommodate all age groups and group sizes with several field trip programs and resources geared towards K-12 students.  For students interested in pursuing a career with a conservation organization, the Wild Turkey Center is headquarters for more than 120 NWTF professionals that work in fields including video production, graphic design, wildlife biology and more.

For visiting educators, the NWTF offers the acclaimed Wild About Turkey Education Box, the NWTF’s curriculum tool for teachers.  The education boxes are perfect for teaching students about conservation and natural resource stewardship before and after a trip to the Wild Turkey Center.   All NWTF museum programs and education resources address national curriculum standards.

Once the NWTF tour is complete, visitors can enjoy a lesson in South Carolina history, culture and cuisine in historic downtown Edgefield – just two miles from the Wild Turkey Center.  Known as “The Town of Ten Governors,” Edgefield’s visitors can browse pottery and other crafts from local artisans, eat a variety of Southern specialties at several restaurants, and find outdoor gear, wildlife art and home décor at the NWTF’s Turkey Shoppe on Main.  Before departing, a short walk around the town square will offer photo opportunities with the many painted, ceramic wild turkey statues that dot the downtown area.


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