The Heart's Content area of the Allegheny National Forest turned into an educational playground recently when local students learned about facets of forest life.
Thirty-nine first- through fifth-grade students from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Warren traveled to the interpretive trail for a picnic and informative nature walk.
"We just want to give the kids exposure to environmental aspects," said Dr. Howard Ferguson, the school's principal.
Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service were on hand to interact with the students and guide three groups through the trail.
Todd Ristau, research ecologist for the Forest Service's north sesearch station, described Hearts Content to his group as "what the land looked like before European settlers arrived."
Ristau also identified various flowers and plants on the trail, including jack-in-the-pulpit, wild strawberries and poison ivy.
Barbara Mcguinness, environmental literacy coordinator for the north research station, created a scavenger hunt for her group as well as a nature journal for the students to document their experience.
"We want them to see that it's enjoyable to be outside," said Mcguinness.
The scavenger hunt Mcguinness created asked the students to find items that varied in length, weight, shape and had three different kinds of leaves.
Mike Spisak, silviculturalist for the ANF's Bradford office, educated his group about the variety of tree species along the trail, benefits of a forest and the appropriate habitat for wildlife.
Spisak was pleasantly surprised about what the students already knew.
"I was very impressed with their knowledge," he said.
Second-grader Emma Darling learned "about the birch tree and it smells like mint."
Classmate Rachael Shattuck "saw a newt."
According to Ferguson, the opportunity was a "nice outing."
Heart's Content is located about 15 miles from Warren.