May was Grasses in Classes field trip month for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance! Nearly every day, CBA staff and AmeriCorps team members met 3rd and 5th graders across the Choctawhatchee Bay to plant smooth cordgrass and participate in fun, educational nature games.
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 and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, CBA provides teachers in Okaloosa and Walton Counties the equipment and materials required to grow shoreline grasses at their school. 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.
This year, nearly 2,000 students from 117 classes planted 655 bags of grasses at Lincoln Park, Florida Park, Cessna Landing, White Point, and more. In addition to planting, the “exploration station” remained a highlight with each group, as students could wade into the shallows of the bay to net native fish, crabs, and shrimp.
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Cox Communications has granted CBA $3000 to fund an elementary school Grasses in Classes curriculum through the 2018-2019 school year.
Grasses in Classes raises awareness and individual knowledge of local ecosystems through hands-on restoration projects and in-class instruction. With funding through Cox, Grasses in Classes students will 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 staff and AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards. Periodically, the schoolchildren will split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. The program instills a love of local habitat and restores shoreline.
CBA is a recipient of the Cox Communications local giving award. The company highlights individuals and organizations that are helping the community; in particular, this $3000 gift funds an initiative that encourages environmental sustainability and conservation.
“Support from our business partners, like Cox Communications, is an essential part of achieving CBA’s mission and goals,” explains Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “With Cox’s help, we will be able to bring our Grasses in Classes curriculum to an Okaloosa County elementary school and inspire the next generation of water quality stewards.”
CBA organized and facilitated 20 field trips for 18 elementary schools in Okaloosa and Walton Counties to bring 3rd and 5th graders to the shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay. A culmination of the year-long Grasses in Classes curriculum, the students planted smooth cordgrass they have raised since October of 2017 to create brand new living shorelines that both reduce erosion and create important wildlife habitat.
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 staff and AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards. Periodically, the schoolchildren split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. The program instills a love of local habitat, restores shoreline, and inspires the next generation of watershed stewards.
This year, CBA also partnered with Eglin Air Force Base and Jackson Guard to bring three groups of students to White Point on the Eglin Reservation for the first time. Students planted grasses and learned more about the native species that call Eglin home.
“The students never forget their field trips,” says Brittany Tate, Education Coordinator for CBA, “They now know what it feels like to improve the local waterways with their own two hands.”
Funding for Grasses in Classes comes from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program as well as the Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. Local businesses and community groups can sponsor Grasses in Classes programs for the 2018-2019 academic year for $3,000 per school.