Contact: Marissa Gleockler, Vice President of Communications firstname.lastname@example.org FORT PIERCE, FL: At the heart of St. Lucie County stands A&G Concrete Pools - a pillar of support for the community’s…
Contact: Marissa Gleockler, Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County – Acting Vice President of
Chelsey Matheson; FAU Harbor Branch – Associate Director, Research Communications
FORT PIERCE, FL: This summer, nearly 400 campers from the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County got their sea legs—and a new appreciation for marine science and their local environment with FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute aboard the university’s state-of-the-art pontoon, the “Discovery.”
The partnership was all about giving kids the opportunity to explore and learn more about the Indian River Lagoon in a hands-on, immersive environment. For many of the Boys & Girls Clubs members, this was their first experience on a boat. Not only did they get a taste of what it means to be a marine scientist, they got to see a different view of what makes their community special.
“The Indian River Lagoon is an amazing ecosystem, home to thousands of plants and animals,” said Gabby Barbarite, Ph.D., director of outreach and engagement at FAU Harbor Branch. “We are so excited to share our knowledge, passions and important research underway with these children through our new program.”
During the field trips, Club members spent time in the life of a marine scientist. They learned about a wide array of habitats and wildlife, the threats caused by pollution and other harmful human activity, and best practices to care for local waterways. But these weren’t just sightseeing tours. Campers got their hands wet with real scientific research activities like water-quality testing, plankton tows and benthic surveys. Club members were even able to see below the surface, using FAU Harbor Branch’s remotely operated vehicle.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our Boys & Girls Clubs kids,” said Will Armstead, Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County CEO. “It’s important for the next generation of leaders to get out into the community and learn about what makes St. Lucie County so unique. The partnership with FAU Harbor Branch has been educational and eye-opening in so many ways.”
The field trips are funded through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) South Florida Initiative secured by Barbarite to educate children—especially those from disadvantaged communities—about science and Florida’s natural resources.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County was a natural partner in the new initiative. For six years, FAU Harbor Branch has offered specialized marine science programming for the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County, including the Ocean Discovery after school program and Keep the Sea Free of Debris summer camp. Together, these efforts have educated nearly 1,000 children, and led to the removal of over 20,000 pieces of trash from local waterways. This continued partnership aims to inspire future scientists, ocean ambassadors and environmental stewards.