Teaching students ocean conservation at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

11/27/2011
Field Trip Destination

Loggerhead Marinelife Center – a non-profit organization nestled along Florida’s east coast in picturesque Juno Beach, Florida — offers free admission to over 200,000 visitors annually. The center’s mission is to promote conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The campus sits adjacent to one of the most densely nested beaches in the world for loggerhead sea turtles, with three species of sea turtles returning to its beaches to lay their eggs year after year. image

The Green, Leatherback, and Loggerhead sea turtles that nest on Juno Beach, as well as the Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley turtles that swim off the coast, form the impetus for the center’s focuses on research, rehabilitation and education.

The center’s current campus features an on-site state-of-the-art sea turtle hospital, several aquariums buzzing with marine life, experiential learning exhibits, a learning center, and an outdoor Turtle Yard where more than 50 sea turtles and thousands of hatchlings recover from their illnesses and injuries each year. A stop through Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s gift shop allows visitors to support the organization through their purchases of marine-themed books, apparel, children’s toys and games, home décor, and jewelry, all available at a variety of price points. The campus, built in 2007, is designated by the Florida Green Building Coalition as a “Certified Florida Green Commercial Building.” But the organization’s roots trace back to the exemplary vision of a conservationist decades ahead of her time.

Juno Beach resident Eleanor Fletcher was curious as to why so many hatchlings headed toward land instead of out to sea. Fletcher’s intrigue led her to perform some of the earliest research on sea turtles in Florida. She inspired the support of local children and began teaching ocean conservation lessons above her husband’s real estate office. She believed children were the most influential stewards of the ocean, and education was the foundation for shaping their environmental behaviors. In 1985, The Children’s Museum of Juno Beach opened. In just 1,600 square feet of space, the museum hosted 10,000 school children a year, setting the stage for what would one day become Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Although the organization has grown significantly in size and scope, its commitment to education has remained unchanged. Today, over 20,000 school children visit the center each year. The center’s curriculum follows the State of Florida’s current Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and covers a wide range of topics including sea turtle biology, ecology, veterinary practices and conservation issues of the natural environment. School groups may participate in science labs including the all-new Children’s Research Station where participants learn about the process of treating a sea turtle from rescue to release. Each field trip is customized to meet the visiting classroom’s grade level and educational needs, and is aimed at teaching a sense of respect and stewardship of the natural world.

In addition to Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s campus curriculum, visiting school groups can enjoy the surrounding Loggerhead Park. The park includes restrooms, showers, pavilions, a playground, free parking and guarded beach access. Classroom outreach presentations can be scheduled within south Florida for students who are unable to visit the campus in person.

Moreover, classrooms across the country and world may benefit from the education offered at Loggerhead Marinelife Center using video streaming technology. The center is able to video stream presentations, special lectures, sea turtle releases and more so that students without access to the ocean may still learn about its importance.

Students across the country are also benefitting from cross-curriculum studies of Loggerhead Marinelife Center. High school teachers in Indiana taught a joint English-Science curriculum largely based on Loggerhead Marinelife Center, its patient updates — www.marinelife.org/patients — and its leatherback research blog — www.floridaleatherbacks.com.  Elementary school students collected 10,000 pennies to see what the survival of one in 10,000 sea turtle hatchlings looks like. The project turned into a cross-curriculum unit that integrated math, reading, community service and art. The classroom surpassed its goal and donated $110.00 to Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Other schools have mailed in get well cards for the center’s patients, held lemonade sale fundraisers, hospital supply drives, and donated to dress-down days in support of the organization. 

A particularly successful distance learning component available to schools across the world is sea turtle adoptions for classrooms. At any point during the year, students may “adopt” one of the center’s current patients. Each week, classrooms can follow along with online updates about the progress of their patient to learn more about common illnesses, injuries and medical practices. Sea turtle adoptions for classrooms are available at a discounted rate by contacting the center directly. The center’s adoption program fosters a sense of ownership and investment in children as they study the recovery process of a sea turtle.

More information about Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s premiere science education programs may be obtained by calling 561.627.8280, emailing [email protected], or visiting www.marinelife.org.
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