2016 Dr. Harold Albers

Teacher Ecology Camp

2015 TEC Dr Albers w Julie Poth

Dr. Harold Albers and SPAS President Judi Hopkins (behind) saying hello to camp partner and advisor Pinellas County Schools Elementary Science Supervisor Julie Poth.

Successful is the best way to describe the 7th Annual Teacher Ecology Camp. The plan was simple: combine over 50 eager teachers wishing to increase their knowledge of Florida’s natural world, add energetic speakers and local scientist instructors, provide hands-on field trips to wonderful local environments, and include numerous resource and reference materials. The result was clear. As teachers increased their knowledge of our natural resources, they were able to share their new knowledge with a classroom of students - and to do so each and every year. Teachers know that the allure of nature prompts more than scientific discussion; the natural world can be the key motivating factor in enticing students to develop not only their their math and language skills but also in inspiring their artistic expression. Fortunately, this year, TEC attendees included math, science, language arts, and art teachers from seven local counties ranging from Sumter to Sarasota.

When habitats are gone or diminished, entire ecosystems with their dependent wildlife, including the birds, will suffer. That is why this year’s Camp consisted of four, 2-day workshops with topics on Florida ecology, estuary ecology, invasive plant and animal species, and cumulated with a fantastic climate change workshop.

Seining for fish and inverts at Weedon Island Preserve during the Estuary Workshop

Dr. Gabe Vargo and great-horned owl giving the Bird of Prey presentation at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

Dr. Gabe Vargo and great-horned owl giving the Bird of Prey presentation at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

Teachers taking invasive exotic plant ID hands-on quiz…hmmm, isn’t this growing at our school?

Each workshop incorporated indoor and outdoor learning activities. About 60% of the teachers attended multiple workshops and many were welcomed as returning attendees from previous Camps. After attending the first week of Camp, one teacher completely changed her family’s vacation dates so that she could attend the following week’s workshops. Talk about motivated teachers! These teachers were willing to put in the effort and continue on their educational journeys and we are proud that the St. Petersburg Audubon Society and their partners are leading the way providing them this opportunity.

Audubon Florida Chapters Coordinator, Jacqui Sulek, inspiring teachers during her attendance of the Climate Change Workshop

We would like to thank the SPAS Education Committee, Board members, and the Camp partners for their work and dedication – Pinellas County Schools, the Weedon Island & Brooker Creek Preserves, Dr. Gabe Vargo – SPAS & Boyd Hill Nature Preserve Birds of Prey, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Libby Carnahan – UF/IFAS Extension, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Cynthia Grizzle - Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas Regional Coordinator, Tessie Offner – FWC Non-native Wildlife Biologist, Dr. Tonya Clayton, Haley Burger – Eckerd College sustainability student, and Jeanne Murphy & Brian Lane – Sensing Nature, LLC.

Dave Kandz and teachers viewing Indian Shores nesting black skimmer colony

Dave Kandz and teachers viewing Indian Shores nesting Black Skimmer colony

Next year’s camp planning is already underway. Please help us continue this successful Teacher Ecology Camp tradition. Tell your teacher friends to save the dates June 14 – 24, 2016 for another great Florida experience!

SPAS TEC participants at Ft. DeSoto