Picture yourself immersed in nature’s classroom. There are mangroves to explore, sea creatures to capture and superheroes who are learning how to save our environment. This adventure is made possible by Nature’s Academy, a non-profit environmental education company focusing on educational field trips.
We recently spent the day exploring Leffis Key with students from Daughtrey Elementary School. The preserve is within Coquina Beach in Manatee County. Staff from Nature’s Academy walk the fifth graders through the mangroves in search of ecological discoveries. They will gasp at schools of fish, view sea birds through a pair of binoculars and learn that those mangroves grow from a tiny seed pod. Students will be serving as citizen scientists and provide their data to an online database that will help to benefit the Gulf of Mexico.
The mission of Nature’s Academy is to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) literacy and foster environmental stewardship. After eating lunch, students gear up for a trek into Sarasota Bay. They are provided with water shoes for wading, and a net for collecting small marine life through an activity called dip-netting. They drag the net through the sea grass in hopes of finding shrimp, crab or tiny fish.
After collecting specimens, the excited young scientists learn a fascinating lesson about the creatures they’ve discovered. They have removed the sea life from their home – only temporarily – in order to learn more about each species. The students from Daughtrey will take their new knowledge with them – and a reusable water bottle to get them thinking about STEM and environmental literacy. Nearby, another group of students are learning about how the removal of litter through coastal cleanups can better sustain the well-being of local waterways.
Nature’s Academy uses grants and donations to provide amazing outdoor educational field trip programs to every fifth grade student in Manatee County, at no cost to them or their schools. For more information, visit their website. Congratulations to its founder, Dana Pounds, who recently received a First Place Gulf Guardian Award from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency.)
#WeManatee stands for We are the School District of Manatee County. No matter what challenges we face, we strengthen each other when we stand together.