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"Not all children have the means to visit the Conservancy's campus and engage with our cutting-edge technology, so our mobile classroom is the perfect solution," said Conservancy Director of Environmental Education Alex Levine. "With this new science laboratory on wheels, we're excited to expand our program across Southwest Florida."
The mobile classroom features inventive, hands-on science learning tools including numerous interior and exterior monitors; a large touch table installed with NOAA's "Science On a Sphere" experience; a high-powered microscope station that can project onto 4K screens; a wet lab for samples collected outdoors; and student workspaces. With the press of a button, the custom-built vehicle expands outward to create a full-size classroom on board.
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This year's after-school curriculum will focus on exploring various concepts related to water. Students will dive into discovering different kinds of plankton, looking at various forms of pollution and learning about the lives of sea turtles, something the Conservancy has been researching for over 40 years.
"We are delighted that the richness of life in the woods and waters of Florida will be taught to more of our local communities through the mobile classroom," said donors Jay and Patty Baker in Naples.
Through the Magic Under the Mangroves fundraiser, the Bakers and other generous donors contributed $400,000 towards the mobile classroom in 2018. Additional funding provided by the Community Foundation of Collier County, Naples Children and Education Foundation, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Stranahan Foundation and The League Club also helped towards purchase and operation.
"We are delighted to provide this grant to help the Conservancy of Southwest Florida develop a mobile classroom which will allow children in our community to explore the unique ecosystems of Southwest Florida in innovative new ways," said NCEF Chief Executive Officer Maria Jimenez-Lara. "This program will especially benefit rural students and students in low-income families who have less access to the technology, tools and expertise that support student-centered STEM education."
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As part of the Conservancy's Environmental Education Outreach Program, the mobile classroom will begin its pilot year partnering with local agencies and organizations in after-school programs, eventually launching its in-school program visiting local elementary and middle schools in 2022-23. The mobile classroom will also make appearances across Southwest Florida.
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