Education is a critical part of the Conservancy’s mission. When in-person outreach and field trips became impossible due to public health concerns, the Conservancy Education Team quickly pivoted to creating a new E-Learning Hub and virtual animal encounter series so we could continue to engage with audiences of all ages. In late 2021, the Conservancy was thrilled to restart in-person education with the opening of the new Dalton Discovery Center and the launch of our mobile classroom, the Learning Adventures Bus. However, it had still been two years since we welcomed students to our campus for our special brand of immersive, place-based learning experiences.
That all changed in January 2022 with another exciting launch – Watery Wonders, our specialty field trip for third graders in partnership with Collier County Public Schools. After a long hiatus, our campus was once again buzzing with excited students learning about their environment with our equally energized educators. Our new Watery Wonders program takes students on a three-hour journey where they explore key ecological concepts and discover why water is so critical to life in Southwest Florida. At the new Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh, educators take classes to the shoreline where they dip-net for some of the small aquatic organisms that call the marsh home. Students are able to examine and identify their finds and measure water quality parameters like temperature and salinity. Our scientists-in-training then have an opportunity to learn about plant biology, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and the water cycle while exercising their creativity at our three STEAM Stations. There, students get a surprise visit from one of ambassador baby alligators and get a chance to learn all about what makes a reptile a reptile.
After a lunch break at our beautiful lagoon, classes take a stroll on the Conservancy’s nature trails where they learn about Southwest Florida’s native plant communities with some Trail Walk Bingo and a cool leaf-cutting activity. Students record all of their findings in a brand-new Watery Wonders Workbook that they take home at the end of their Conservancy adventure. Everyone inevitably leaves excited, a little damp, and knowing more about our unique ecosystems, as well what everyone can do to help preserve them. We cannot wait to explore even more watery wonders with students in the months ahead!