This summer, 19 youngsters from Escambia County had the opportunity to learn about Sharing the Shores with their feathered neighbors. A week-long camp entitled “Environmental Encounters” put on by the Francis M. Weston Audubon Society (FMWAS) was held at Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola, FL. This wonderful coastal park provided the perfect location for campers to learn about flora and fauna of woodlands, wetlands, and Gulf ecosystems.
Nature hikes, games, field investigations, and animal encounters were just a few of the daily activities. Each day campers learned about a new part of our coastal environment using equipment including anemometers, thermometers, transects, and binoculars to look at biotic and abiotic factors found in each ecosystem. Volunteers from agencies such as Gulf Power, Florida Native Plant Society, Francis M Weston Audubon, and AmeriCorps were gracious enough to donate time and activities to enhance the lessons, making them even more engaging and meaningful. Their time and effort was greatly appreciated. The kids loved it all!
The students were surveyed at the beginning and end of the camp to assess their knowledge of shorebirds and environmental issues surrounding the health of these birds. The results of the pre and post tests showed an average improvement of 42%! That just goes to show that the some of the best educational experiences are ones in which you have just that… experiences. Real life experiences! Nothing takes the place of observing, touching and beginning to understand the things that most people only read about. It was summed up nicely by one boy saying “I can’t wait to come back next year!”
We certainly feel the same way!
Planning and coordination of the camp was funded by Audubon Florida, recognizing the unique talents of FMWAS educational program and staff. The camp was also sponsored by Big Lagoon State Park with local support for scholarships.