Dr. Harold Albers

Teacher Ecology Camp

Dr. Albers w J. Hopkins 2015 Education Award

Dr. Harold Albers with SPAS President Judi Hopkins as he receives the the 2015 Audubon Education Award

The vision of benefactor Dr. Harold Albers, Teacher Ecology Camp is a science camp for educators which combines presentations from the local scientific community with practical in-the-field experience. Teacher Ecology Camp is presented at no charge to educators in collaboration with Sensing Nature biologists & environmental educators, Jeanne Murphy and Brian Lane.

In the past, SPAS awarded yearly scholarships to two teachers to attend the National Audubon Teachers Camp at Hog Island, Maine. Due to economic and restructuring issues, the Audubon camps at Hog Island were cancelled. Dr. Harold Albers turned those unfortunate events into one spectacular achievement for our chapter - our first teachers’ ecology camps. SPAS' goal was to train and to inspire teachers who would then instill an understanding and awareness of wildlife and habitat conservation in their students. The purpose of the environmental education camps was to increase the environmental knowledge of the participants and to provide environmental curriculum and activities that the teachers could take back into their classrooms.

Planning began early in the fall of 2008. Dr. Albers successfully engaged the enthusiastic cooperation of Julie Poth, Science Supervisor for Pinellas County Schools, Bruce Rinker, Environmental Lands Division, and Phyllis Kolianos of Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center. Jeanne Murphy and Brian Lane, of Sensing Nature, were contracted to teach, organize, and facilitate presenters. Their collaborative efforts and expertise, as well as the members of the SPAS education committee, produced an excellent schedule. Examples of topics were: “Introduction to Florida Ecology”; “Estuarine, Freshwater and Terrestrial Biodiversity and Adaptations”; and “Human Impacts and Conservation Efforts.” Two highlights of the camp were in the field: “Canoeing an Estuary” and “Shell Key Experience.” (Current camps include Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in place of Shell Key; Brooker Creek Preserve; field trips.)

As a beginning model, two duplicate July camps were offered in 2009 to teachers of KG through 5th grades (now expanded to all Tampa Bay Area Teachers). Julie Poth notified teachers of the scholarship opportunities, which would also earn them science component points towards teacher recertification. The response was overwhelming. A total of twenty-eight teachers attended. Instead of impacting two classes as in the past, the lives of over 600 students would be enriched in the first year. We knew, without a doubt, the teachers' enthusiasm would help inspire future environmentalists. Responses from the teachers’ evaluations were excellent! Some stated they wanted to attend an advance camp next year. The following are excerpts from an email sent by Julie Poth to the SPAS Board: “I have received feedback from several teachers from each of the Audubon camps...each…has been nothing but positive. The most powerful impact I see from these elementary teachers is their desire to continue their professional growth in environmental education…. A great thank you to the Audubon Society of St. Pete in their ability to be insightful and to take this risk in changing what they fund in teacher education in our district.”