Reaching thousands of children by treating their teachers to
An exciting learning experience that transfers directly into the classroom!
Each July, Coastal Wildlife Club, Inc. (CWC) hosts workshops for elementary school teachers called Sea Turtle Overnight Adventures.
There will not be a SeaTurtle Overnight Adventures for summer 2013. More information on SeaTurtle Overnight Adventures 2014 to come, dates TBA- summer 2014.
The project began in 2005 when CWC members and veteran Sarasota County teachers Linda Soderquist and Jeanne Troiano planned activities, gathered existing materials and created new ones, and, in July of that year, led the first Sea Turtle Adventures for 25 teachers from Sarasota and Charlotte counties. CWC funded the project and many members helped with logistical support. There was no cost to participants, who returned home at night between the two workshop segments.
Dating from this successful pilot project, workshops have been held annually at the Manasota Beach Club in Englewood in Sarasota County. Spanning Manasota Key, the 25-acre property is an ideal site, encompassing mangrove-fringed bay front, wetlands, scrub habitat, and sandy beach.
In 2006, with the help of a Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) Public Outreach Grant, CWC added an overnight stay to facilitate participation by teachers from more distant schools. We specifically targeted those within the Charlotte Harbor watershed, which covers Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, (part of) Manatee, Polk and Sarasota counties. The overnight on Manasota Key also affords participants the opportunity of a guided night beach walk and lighting survey, an expanded opportunity for networking, and time simply to enjoy the location.
Since 2005, we have hosted more than 170 teachers.
Eligibility is limited to elementary teachers who are new participants – with the exception of teachers who attended in the project’s first year when we did not offer the overnight stay.
Sea Turtle Overnight Adventures is held on the most active sea turtle nesting beach on Florida’s Gulf coast, in July at the height of the nesting season, when it is likely that nesting and hatching and also nest excavation and evaluation will take place. At this time too, gopher tortoises on the Manasota Beach Club property are usually out and about for ready observation.
Workshop activities include beach walks to identify and document sea turtle tracks, to distinguish those resulting in nests from others which are false crawls (non-nesting emergences), to observe and assist in nest excavations – and always to do beach clean-up. Guided walks led by CWC member and Manasota Beach Club owner Sydney Crampton in upland habitat and throughout the property include identification of gopher tortoises, their burrows and foraging materials, and identification of native plants as well as exotics, with attention to those exotics which are invasive.
Workshop leaders demonstrate water quality tests, and participants do salinity experiments on Gulf water they have collected. CWC borrows water testing equipment from the FDEP Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network coordinated locally by the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC). Note: CWC members Zoé Bass, Sydney Crampton, Judy DeMersman, Wilma Katz and Linda Wilson pioneered the program locally. Members Sydney Crampton, Linda Soderquist and Jeff Rice continue as volunteer water monitors today.
An astronomy component added in 2009 is planned for 2010 also.
In addition to outdoor activities, there are Power Point presentations, classroom demonstrations, lesson practice, investigation of workshop-related websites, and independent work time for teachers to create their own lessons and visuals, all of which provide hands-on experience, information and resource materials to better enable them subsequently to share their new and expanded knowledge with students.
Since 2008, CWC member and artist Nanette Hopkins has shared her expertise with participants enabling them to create clay sea turtles, a project readily transferrable to the classroom.
To aid participants in lesson planning, Workshop Leaders Soderquist and Troiano in 2005 compiled a handbook which includes curriculum standards connecting Florida Sunshine State Standards to the various worksheets and interactive lessons presented in the workshop. Improved each year, the current handbook is comprised of more than 200 pages, most printed on both sides. It is a wealth of information and resources: hand-outs, materials from environmental organizations and government agencies, sample lesson plans, and interactive games.
Participating teachers receive materials provided, and in many cases contributed, by the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, the Gopher Tortoise Council, Mote Marine Laboratory Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, the FWC, Sarasota and Collier counties, the CHNEP, the Srodes family and Turtle Talks, the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and others.
We are happy to be able to provide complete classroom sets of Turtle Talks, a sea turtle activity book for children, to workshop participants in 2010 and, as promised, also to those participants in 2009. Using our 2009 Teachers’ Workshops expenses as a match, we were awarded a generous grant by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice for reprinting Turtle Talks and Charlas de Tortugas, its Spanish translation.
Teachers may apply to receive 15 hours of in-service credit, and some earn an additional 10 hours of credit by submitting lesson plans demonstrating classroom use of the workshop experience.
For 2013, please call the Manasota Beach Club for alumni rates 941-474-2614.
MEASURING PROJECT SUCCESS
Each year, post-workshop test scores consistently average at least 98%, dramatic, across-the-board increases from pre-workshop averages of less than 50%.
Participants’ written evaluation of the workshops have been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic providing assurance that the primary project goal - to increase awareness, knowledge and excitement about coastal resources and particularly about sea turtles - is being achieved. The evaluations and comments also provide feedback on improving the project.
In response to overwhelming demand, CWC began offering two back-to-back workshops in 2008. We now host 50 teachers each July. The project directly benefits these 50 participants and, during each school year afterwards, indirectly benefits their more than 1250 combined students and families. In cases of participating science and/or art teachers, entire student bodies benefit.
Participants returning to their schools report sharing their enthusiasm and what they have learned with fellow teachers in both informal sessions and general staff meetings. They report also that they continue to use workshop resources and experiences in subsequent years.
PROJECT SUPPORT AND COLLABORATION
Now in its ninth year, the Sea Turtle Overnight Adventures project reflects our commitment to education - for our members and for others. While Coastal Wildlife Club is the principal sponsor, collaboration has been fundamental to our success. The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program has provided critical support through CHNEP Public Outreach Grants in 2006, 2007, 2008 and a micro-grant in 2009. The Manasota Beach Club also is a vital component, its location and “old Florida” ambience key to the unique content and informal atmosphere of the workshops. In addition, CWC members assist enormously and indispensably - copying thousands of pages (200 binder pages x 50, and more), compiling and assembling them, welcoming participants and directing initial parking, food shopping, delivering and setting up and cleaning up, guiding beach walks, excavating nests, and relaying from the beach to the workshop sessions up-to-the-minute nest information such as fresh tracks, just-hatched nests, and, in the case of a 2009 workshop, a hatching nest.
We are proud of our CWC Teachers’ Workshops and we acknowledge our good fortune in being able to host them. Our wealth of resources includes a broad membership eager to step up – and specifically Workshop Leaders Linda Soderquist and Jeanne Troiano as well as Manasota Beach Club owner Sydney Crampton, a committed conservationist and former turtle patrol volunteer – and Manasota Key itself, our outdoor laboratory, and its summer turtles.
Q and A about the 2013 Workshops:
1. When can I register?
Registration is not yet open. More information will be posted soon.
2. Is eligibilitytied to geography?
Preference is given to SW Florida teachers, but others within Florida will be considered.
Continental breakfasts are provided each day, lunch on the first day, and snacks and water throughout.
Generally, participants go out for supper, usually car-pooling. We provide recommendations for restaurants. All are at least several miles away.
Yes, the Gulf of Mexico is good for swimming and sometimes snorkeling.
Sometimes it rains hard and long, and sometimes the mosquitoes and no-see-ums are bad. Don’t let this stop you, but do bring rain gear and bug repellent.