By Vivian Miller
Mark Winston, an elementary school teacher at Quaker Ridge Elementary in Scarsdale, New York assigns his class a critical thinking project every two weeks. In late February, the assigned topic was “Everglades Forever?” The topic prompted students in Winston’s 5th grade class to contact Everglades Foundation vice chair, Mary Barley. They emailed her with questions about her involvement in restoring the Everglades and wanted to know how they could help. In response, she invited the students to have a teleconference with one of the Foundation’s scientists and two rangers from Everglades National Park, so that they would have the opportunity to “meet” the experts and learn more about the Everglades.
With the assistance of Everglades National Park’s education rangers, the virtual chat took place via Google Hangout. Aida Arik, the Foundation’s ecological engineer, was joined by Rangers Allyson Gantt and Yvette Cano for a one-hour session. Students asked questions about how the scientist and rangers became interested in saving the Everglades, if they enjoyed their work, and if the Everglades could truly be saved. “It’s wonderful that students are asking critical questions about issues facing the Everglades and want to know what they can do to help–even from New York. They clearly recognize the importance of the Everglades beyond Florida’s borders,” Arik said after the call.
She also added that she hopes learning about the Everglades will foster an attitude of natural resource stewardship among the students wherever they live or travel–and, perhaps, help create some future environmental scientists.
The Everglades Foundation strongly believes in educational outreach and recently launched an groundbreaking curriculum that teaches Everglades literacy. Lesson plans and additional educational resources are available for download at evergladesfoundation.org/curriculum.