“A Dream Becomes Reality”
One of only 2 Education Programs fully funded and managed by the Friends Group in the U.S., the other is in South Dakota
• After the construction of the tower, pavilion and hiking trails on the Salt Marsh Trails, the Friends saw the dream of an education program for elementary schools become a reality.
It became apparent that this was the perfect place to take school children for hands-on environmental education.
• In 2010, we received a $10,000 Nature of Learning Grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The Grant allowed the implementation of an environmental education program for elementary schools based on hands-on learning field trips to the Salt Marsh Trails. Curriculum was developed and approved by the Citrus County School System.
• The field trips are fully funded by the Friends of Crystal River including, all class materials, bus transportation and lunches. Starting in 2012, 4th and 5th grade students from a local school began their exploration of the Salt Marsh Trails with each class having a day-long experience exploring the land and waterside environment, an invaluable part of our local ecosystem. Armed with magnifying glasses, clipboards, and their own growing enthusiasm, the students came by bus and discovered in real life the concepts of food webs, ecosystems, photosynthesis, and the water cycle. Sometimes they dig through mud looking for isopods and other living treasures, and other times they lumber through the thick forested area becoming more aware of living things within their reach such as wild orchids, majestic cedars, and turkey tail fungi.
• The program is manned by volunteer instructors, who are for the most part, retired teachers and field scientists. The school has noted an increase in the 5th graders’ standardized test scores in science and feels that our programs is a strong factor in this success.
• Making the science textbooks come alive is the goal of our program, “The Nature of Learning” on the Salt Marsh Trails. The program volunteers work hard to nurture a love and respect for the nature in our area, allowing them to become advocates of the environment and to also educate others about being good stewards of these precious natural resources.
• The program is in its fourth successful year at one local elementary school and will expand to other Citrus County schools in the coming years.