NAPLES – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has launched a new seventh grade field trip program, which welcomed its first class in late February. For more than 30 years, Rookery Bay Reserve has been a front-runner in environmental education for Collier County students.
“We are excited to offer this unique learning experience to local students,” said Sarah Falkowski, education coordinator for the Reserve. “According to our market analysis, no other education provider in the region offers hands-on estuarine education in such close alignment with school curriculum.”
Called Rookery Bay Survivors, this field trip program engages teachers in a pre-field trip educator workshop. An educator’s guide provides teachers with information and activities to be completed in the classroom before the students attend the field trip. A Rookery Bay Reserve staff member or volunteer docent also visits the class to provide orientation.
“Students are prepared before they get here,” said Rookery Bay Educator Jeannine Windsor. “The educator’s guide includes vocabulary words, fun activities and everything the students need to ensure a quality experience.”
The program and labs address species adaptations necessary for survival in the estuarine environment. The survivor lab includes games that engage students in competition among species and limiting factors. Students use microscopes in the plankton lab to focus on species diversity at different times of day. In the crab lab, students observe common crab species and identify the traits that are necessary for survival in their environments. The keystone lab invites students to examine oysters, highlighting the many relationships they have with other species and how they contribute to better water quality. Following the trip, the students’ actual data is compiled and made accessible for other classes to compare and analyze.
Rookery Bay Survivors was created to help teachers and students understand more about the region’s coastal environment. Students directly experience research and the scientific method as they study marine organisms at the Reserve. All of the activities have been structured for educational effectiveness and incorporate critical thinking strategies, high level questioning and scientific techniques.