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"We had to cancel a few field trips when the schools shut down and we couldn't do them at all last year," said Conservancy of Southwest Florida's Education Programs Coordinator Tonya Zadrozny. "We are excited to be back on the water."
Rookery Bay started the program in 2015, holding sessions at Rookery Bay's educational learning center and then at the field station at the edge of the estuary. The Conservancy partnered in 2019 to double the number of students who could participate in the program, bringing its Good Fortune II, a 35-passenger pontoon boat, to take participants out on the water for hands-on observation and data collection.
Now, visiting classes of up to 60 students and teachers are split into two groups. One performs lab work on marine invertebrate adaptations and shark movements at Rookery Bay's field station. Another group goes out on the Good Fortune II with Conservancy educators and uses real scientific tools to collect plankton samples and measure water quality parameters to assess the health of the estuary. Students compare the ecosystem health of two locations before switching experiences with the other group.
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"We wanted to be able to bring more students out," said Jeannine Windsor, education specialist and outreach coordinator for Rookery Bay Research Reserve. "We have a strong history with the Conservancy, and they already had a dock and boat, so we decided to work together to make it a more immersive experience. Studying water quality becomes more exciting when they are surrounded by it."
The work of the Conservancy was started in 1964 to block plans to build a road through Rookery Bay across Gordon Pass into the Ten Thousand Islands.
"It's really rewarding working with an agency we have a long history with," Windsor said. "We get more done working together to create better stewards in this community with an interest in science and sense of place."
The field trips are funded through field trip specialty programs for Title 1 schools in the Collier County School District. http://www.conservancy.org.
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