Mr. Allison's Dream
In 1992, a nonprofit organization was founded with the specific mission of providing educational programs to serve students in Iredell County and the population at large. In an article, by Judy Ausley in the Iredell Neighbors, dated December 28, 1994, Tom Allison talked about being on an environmental, historical and very personal mission. Lisolott Harberts, a local botanist and environmentalist, soon became director of the Allison Woods Foundation to help.
Quoting the article, Mr. Allison said he was preserving the natural environment for others – especially for children. And with the help from others, he is creating what he calls, “a classroom in the forest” to teach young and old about the beauties of nature. “This has long been a dream I held sacred since I was a young boy.” … Retired now, Allison is overseeing work on the land that has been in his family for more than 200 years. He’s turning it into the outdoor classroom he’s always dreamed of.
Ending the interview, Mr. Allison simply said…. "I think there is a vast amount of history to be learned here for all ages and generations to come. For my grandchildren and those who want to learn…..that’s why I am creating this schoolroom in the forest. That will be my dream realized.”
In the past several years, the Allison Woods Foundation has undergone a lot of changes. It has a new director, a dedicated board of directors, and a lot of young, new enthusiastic faces working together to make this dream come true. It also has undergone a name change from the Allison Woods Foundation to the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center. Offering a variety of environmental education programs with some history thrown in the mix, the Outdoor Learning Center is servicing children across the state at numbers of 200-400 per week during March-November. During the colder months, programs are taken into the classroom to offer a year-round field trip possibility. Still offering camporees for Boy Scouts, programs for YMCA’s, and church groups, they now offer programs through 4H complete with summer camps.
What we love most about our classroom is who we share it with. Our outdoor classrooms allow us to go beyond the ordinary classroom and make connections in a hands on experience. Our personal vision is based upon conversations with Mr. Allison that include, "if we can reach that ONE child....make a difference in that ONE life...and bring some enjoyment into a life...then we have done a good job"!
Unfortunately, Mr. Allison passed away on March 5, 2017 and although he won't be able to visit us again, he will be able to witness his dream in action. We at the Outdoor Learning Center know he will be with us during upcoming programs, helping us reach more students and seeing their smiling faces at the end of the day.
Doing these things, the Outdoor Learning Center is striving to make Allison Woods known as the “classroom in the forest” and realizing Tom Allison’s dream.
**Portions of this taken from The Iredell Neighbors, December 28, 1994, by Judy Ausley.