Florida Coastal Everglades LTER’s EdEn Venture

Network News Spring 2004, Vol. 17 No. 1

This outreach program, funded as a supplement from the NSF Informal Education program to the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER (FCE), represents a joint project between FCE, Everglades National Park (ENP), and several Dade County, Florida, schools.

The FCE-ENP “EdEn Venture” will involve a two-pronged action plan for implementation.

The first involves working with Sandy Dayhoff (ENP Environmental Education Coordinator) to initiate a park ranger training program. Second, Susan Dailey (FCE Education and Outreach Coordinator) will develop relationships with local teachers and schools to make the direct educational links among school children, ENP rangers, and FCE science about the Everglades. For this part of the program ENP rangers will be educated about current scientific findings using FCE scientists and data. This information will allow rangers to educate visitors to ENP. More than 1 million visitors visit ENP each year, and half of them interact with ENP rangers.

The FCE Ed&Outreach Coordinator and a uniformed Science Education Ranger will regularly visit classrooms to deliver interactive presentations about the Everglades that have been developed with FCE scientists. After presenting the LTER scientific discovery information, teachers will have the opportunity to involve their classes in field sampling at permanent Schoolyard LTER sites.

Florida Coastal Everglades LTER’s The ranger will also lead field trip classroom tours at ENP environmental education annex sites (e.g. the ENP Shark Road Environmental Education Center).

The Science Education Ranger will present environmental education information (based on FCE science) at regular training sessions for all ENP interpretive park rangers. A Web page will feature virtual tours, material from the ranger training program, and findings of FCE research, accessible by both ENP rangers and by the general public. This Website, which is scheduled to be launched in April 2004, will also include tools for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Finally, regular “Webcast” chat sessions will involve multiple classrooms, FCE scientists, and ENP rangers.

A series of evaluation questionnaires, pre- and post-activity tests, and on-site observation visits will be used to track the program’s success, and the project’s implementation can be monitored and recommendations can be provided by all involved.

All participants in the FCE-ENP EdEn Venture program (ENP rangers, FCE scientists and staff, K-12 teachers, and students) will be strongly encouraged to provide recommendations and comments on the project.

The presentation and delivery of LTER research into environmental education will be adapted accordingly. In the event that the FCE-ENP EdEn Venture is continued for multiple years, summative evaluations from student records of science class grades and career choice assessments from participating schools will become a critical component of the long-term success evaluation.