Results and Accomplishments
Vulcan Materials Company enlisted the help of the Wildlife Habitat Council to develop the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center by writing a wildlife habitat and educational management plan. An employee-based wildlife habitat team focuses on enhancing native birds and mammal habitat, improving access and recreation at the new area, managing invasive species and promoting employee and community involvement in conservation projects.
An education center, which presents “Living Mountain Programs” for all ages, focuses on topics such as habitat, plants, outdoor awareness and other natural history subjects. The Vulcan Education Advisory Team, now entering its third year is working to pilot its first full year of programming developed collaboratively with the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center and the Birmingham Public Schools. The program is coordinated closely with the University of Alabama’s Center for Community Outreach Development program.
This comprehensive, middle school program utilizes the best learning opportunities at Ruffner Mountain and integrates them with classroom curricula and the Alabama Course of Studies. Teacher training programs are also being planned and implemented to ensure program quality and sustainability. These same programs will also be available to private schools visiting the Center. Vulcan is mobilizing as volunteer corps to assist in the hands-on program to allow for the anticipated growth in the program, which includes multiple visits to the facility for some students within the course of a study year. The program uses hands-on field study, mentoring and journaling to explore topics such as how forest and land interact, how wetlands form and how organisms interact with their environment. A favorite educational theme, as on many Vulcan sites, is to explore how rocks and minerals contribute to the area’s human history and how they influence and indeed in many cases, help to determine, the plant species found on the sites.
The wildlife team also plans to work with adjacent landowners to improve habitat on their properties, creating a greater quality of habitat and biodiversity in the region. In 2003, the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center achieved both habitat and Corporate Lands for Learning certification through the Wildlife Habitat Council.