Tannehill Learning Center and Educational Programs

“By looking at things that people used and that show the way they lived, a better and truer impression can be gained than could be had in a month of reading” — Henry Ford

tour group
Learn why iron made in a blast furnace was called 'pig iron' and why it was so important to the Confederate war effort.

While thousands of visitors each year take in the park’s natural beauty, few may realize that under its verdant veneer lies an outstanding outdoor education laboratory and classroom. It is a place that draws archeologists, historians, teachers and students alike to investigate, instruct and learn from the rich history of the site in industrial, social and geological perspectives. Beginning with Hillman’s Bloomery in 1830, Tannehill became known as the birthplace of the Birmingham Iron and Steel District.

From scenery to science and education, the Tannehill Learning Center, which operates as a program of the Iron & Steel Museum, offers unique outdoor classroom learning experiences for Alabama school children from both public and private institutions. The center grew out of efforts to provide meaningful student field trips in an historical environment on the part of a 28-member teacher panel working in concert with the University of Alabama College of Education in the early 1980s.

Several “learning loops” focusing on the Fourth Grade Course of Study as approved by the Alabama Department of Education were developed. Personnel from both the University of Alabama and the Alabama Dept. of Conservation cooperate with the museum staff to offer relevant study programs for students of all ages.


Cannon Lathe
Partial view of 1860s Machine Shop, Iron & Steel Museum, showing 1864 cannon lathe used behind federal lines during the Civil War.
Marchant cabin
The Marchant Cabin (ca 1879) is representative of small settler cabins of the 1800s.

Learning Center Programs

Side Trails to History Program–2017 ($6 per person)

This educational experience focuses on how workers, both free and slave, from the Civil War era lived and worked and the resources that supported settlement and manufacturing in early Alabama. Program content is adaptable to meet the curriculum needs of students in grades k‑12. Following two hours of instructional activities, students may ride the park’s miniature railroad and visit the Country Store and the Sweet Shoppe. Call 205‑477‑5711 for reservations or more information.

Guided Tour Stops:

  • The Iron & Steel Museum: View the tools and machines that made Alabama a leading iron producing state in the 1800s.

  • Fowler House School: Take part in the school experience of the1860s.

  • The Blast Furnaces: Learn how iron was made during the Civil War.

  • Nature Trail: Walk down an actual highway from the past.

Some schools may qualify to have their fees waived if they are public schools where forty percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Assistance does NOT include any transportation costs. Funding of this effort is a public service of Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park with additional support provided by the Caring Foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

The Creek Kids Program–2017  ($5.00 per student)

Creek Kids 1

Hands-on environmental learning is now available through "Creek Kids," a partnership of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and Tannehill State Park. Students experience an overview of a watershed via a train ride, see the impact of a mill dam on fish passage and visit the Iron and Steel Museum to learn about Alabama’s iron industry. Students also work with an Enviroscape to see how pollution can affect the aquatic environment and wade into an actual bubbling spring for a close-up view of native fish and invertebrates. Many species of fish and aquatic invertebrates, including some types of darters, crayfish, mussels and snails, live only in Alabama.

Creek Kids program times may be reserved by calling the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division at 205‑331‑1266 or email for more information or reservations. Some schools may have their fees waived if they are public schools where forty percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Assistance may include some transportation costs. Funding of this effort comes from the sale of "Freshwater Fishing" car tags.

Learning Center Events 2017

Creek Kids Hike

  • The Creek Kid program offered through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources runs spring through fall each year for schools, weather permitting.
  • Hours are Thursdays and Fridays 9:00 a.m–12:30 p.m, Spring and Fall. The minimum number accepted is 15 and the maximum number is 50. Summer camps are scheduled the month of June.
  • Contact Fisheries Division directly. 205‑331‑1266 or email

Visit the The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and the Alabama Geological Survey Web Page featuring Fishes of Tannehill

Side Trails to History Hike

  • Learn history while hiking the park.
  • Wednesdays and Fridays 9:00 a.m–12:30 p.m
    Spring and Fall
  • Minimum 25, maximum 150 students.
  • For Bookings: Contact Jennifer Watts:
    205‑477‑5711 ext.15 or email

Annual Events

Home School Day–

April 4, 2017, 9:30 am–12:00 pm

*The home school day program for 2017 is full. We can’t take any more registrations for this year, but please check back for future dates.

Try your hand at making art with our resident crafters. Students will spend 45 minutes each with our potters and our engraver to learn about each art form and make their own small projects. Afterwards, enjoy a train ride and a picnic lunch in the park! Pre-registration is required. Program fee is $15 for students making art projects and $6 for parents. Students must be age 6 or over to participate. (Parents who want to make art projects will need to pay the $15 fee).

For more information or to register:

Contact Jennifer Watts:
(205) 477-5711 ext.15 or email

Civil War Living History–
Home School Session

Friday, March 10, 2017, 1:30 pm–4:30 pm

Civil War Living History will be offered on Friday, March 10, 2017. Students will have the opportunity to see demonstrations of infantry, cavalry, and artillery! They will also have the opportunity to participate in drill activities and learn about Civil War soldiers’ flags and uniforms, what soldiers carried in the field, and how they ate. All grade levels are welcome. The program fee is $6 per person.

This year, Civil War Living History will include an afternoon session just for home school families and groups. The program fee is $6 per person. Pre‑registration is required.

For more information or to register:
Contact Jennifer Watts:
(205) 477-5711 ext.15 or email

Christmas Village

Students at Christmas Village catch a glimpse into the days of Christmas past and experience what life would have been like during the Civil War era at Christmas time. Staged in the park’s historic cabins, costumed demonstrators engage students with period music, parlor games and toys, period Christmas decorations, camp life for Civil War soldiers in the field and other topics which vary annually. Christmas Village is offered Wednesday through Friday during the first two weeks of December. This program is best suited for grades k‑5, but all grades are welcome. Minimum group size is 20 students. The program fee is $6 per person.

For more information or to register:
Contact Jennifer Watts:
(205) 477-5711 ext.15 or email

The Side Trails to History Tour

drill marks
Drill marks in stone show where slaves quarried building blocks for the furnaces.
Roupes Creek
Enjoy the natural beauty of Roupes Creek.
The Tannehill gristmill waterwheel spins its own story.
Students stand where a slave family lived in the Quarters during the Civil War.
Tannehill train
The train pulls out of the Tannehill Depot headed for the grist mill.
Kids on Sign
The Iron & Steel Museum holds a special fascination for students on field trips.