CBA’s Grasses in Classes is a hands-on, environmental education program that gives students a direct role in the restoration of Choctawhatchee Bay. In partnership with AmeriCorps and with partial funding from the USFWS Coastal Program, Boeing Corporation, and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, CBA provides teachers in Okaloosa and Walton Counties the equipment and materials required to grow shoreline grasses at their school.
Grasses in Classes students tend salt marsh nurseries throughout the school year, and receive monthly education on local estuarine topics that meet Florida’s state science standards from CBA and CBA partners (e.g. AmeriCorps members). Periodically, the schoolchildren split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. At the end of the school year, Grasses in Classes culminates with students planting their shoreline grasses at one of our salt marsh restoration sites along Choctawhatchee Bay as part of our living shoreline initiative. The program instills a love of local habitat, restores shoreline, and inspires the next generation of watershed stewards.
For more on the history of the Grasses in Classes program, click here.
The Dunes in Schools program educates middle school students about the rare dune lake and barrier island ecosystems which exist in their local environment. Students begin the school year with an exploratory field trip to the beach where they collect data and restore the coastal habitat through planting sea oats. The remainder of the year, the students participate in monthly lessons.
The goal of the curriculum is to build students’ knowledge about dynamic coastal systems and how their sea oats will benefit this unique habitat. The lesson includes teachers and CBA staff co-instructing the students within the classroom. Additionally, the lessons are correlated to the State of Florida’s Science middle school standards. To ensure concepts are supported throughout the implementation of the program, teacher trainings are offered. During the trainings, teachers become comfortable with the Dunes in School’s online classroom, along with the concepts and material covered throughout the modules. Dunes in Schools engages students with a hands-on science program that encourages each of them to become personally vested in their local environment by gaining an understanding and awareness of coastal systems.
“From Shelves to Shores” is a hands-on science program offered at community libraries. The program runs for six weeks in June and July and is free and open to the public. Activities include growing shoreline grasses, an interactive touch tank, and more. Our final activity will be an exciting trip to Choctawhatchee bay. Stay tuned for our summer dates and locations.
To engage area youth in oyster restoration, CBA will offer a hands-on, place-based aquaculture program known as Spat On! to area high school students. The initiative will provide students with several hands-on activities and lessons that foster their understanding of oyster ecology and the estuarine habitat.
Spat On! will contain field experiences and in-class assignments. To introduce the students to oyster restoration, students help construct an oyster reef by bagging recycled oyster shell and placing the material. They will monitor growing oysters using various aquaculture techniques, including GoPro Cameras and iPad minis, to analyze spat attachment and water regulation. Towards the end of the year, students will move their matured oysters from the cultivation areas to a reef during a Move Your Mollusk event. Finally, during classroom activities, participants will use the cameras and tablets to analyze water quality data recorded by Choctawhatchee Oyster Gardening volunteers, interpret oyster monitoring data collected by CBA, and create the educational signage that will be placed at the two oyster reef sites.
Local citizen scientists and volunteers join our program and raise their own oyster gardens for restoration. With weekly maintenance amounting to only one hour per week, it’s easy to add oyster gardening to weekend morning routines. If you do not have your own dock, no need to worry. We also need Oyster Allies to help our monitoring team with data collection and garden maintenance for dock owners that may not have the ability to maintain their gardens as often as needed.
Our goal is to promote environmental awareness and facilitate hands-on learning for both our students and volunteers by restoring one acre of oyster habitat in Choctawhatchee Bay. Community stewards, students, and CBA will construct two new oyster reefs, eventually colonizing them with community-grown oysters.