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Candy the black bear helps Hillsborough County sixth-graders learn to respect the environment

Nature's Classroom is rite of passage for local students
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Posted at 5:58 AM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-07 07:42:56-05

THONOTOSASSA, Fla. — Candy the black bear is a big beautiful mystery.

She's also the newest, fluffiest, sweetest teacher's aid for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Candy is the newest resident at Nature's Classroom, a rite of passage for Tampa Bay area students. The rural getaway in Thonotosassa has been a jewel of the school system since the 1960s.

Some 18,000 sixth-graders will visit the 365-acre property this year, hiking, learning survival skills, and visiting rescue and rehab animals in spacious habitats.

"When kids come to Nature's Classroom, we want them to begin to build a connection with the outdoors, with the environment that surrounds them," said Karen Johnson, the site's coordinator.

Candy is a rescue bear, with murky origins in Orlando. She's (maybe) around 10 years old, but they're not sure.

They do know that she LOVES to eat eggs.

Educators want students to understand that Candy needs love and compassion to survive and thrive.

"We don't know Candy's history, but we're going to try and give her the best life possible as a fur-ever friend at Nature's Classroom," said Johnson.