History of Grasses in Classes
Before 2011, CBA implemented a minimal Grasses in Classes Program (GIC) in only three schools. The programs consisted of an initial lesson in which students established their salt marsh nurseries and possibly a field trip to plant their grasses along the shoreline of the Choctawhatchee Bay.
In 2011, CBA noticed a need for teacher workshops to educate educators on the watershed and topics delivered by the GIC program. At the start of the school year, CBA held a small workshop for the science chairs at every school in Okaloosa County. The workshop focused on teaching attendees about the Choctawhatchee Bay watershed and providing additional activities teachers could replicate in their classroom that meets the benchmarks set forth by the State of Florida. The growth and expansion of the Grasses in Classes Program relied heavily on the partnership developed with AmeriCorps, a service group addressing critical community needs in education and the environment. The relationship garnered enough muscle power to provide monthly lessons to over 800 students in the Okaloosa County School District. The CBA and AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards team created a refined, fully developed education project for students throughout the watershed.
With the start of the 2012-2013 school year, community partners committed support to the Grasses in Classes program. GIC reached 1600 students in Okaloosa and Walton Counties. A need for a third-grade curriculum arose, allowing CBA to diversify education efforts throughout the watershed. As with the previous year, an AmeriCorps education team led monthly lessons to third and fifth graders.
The 2013-2014 school year was a benchmark year for CBA’s GIC Program. The expansion allowed eighteen elementary schools in Okaloosa and Walton Counties to participate in our environmental education curriculum. Nine schools participated in the 5th-grade curriculum, with an additional nine schools in the 3rd-grade curriculum, reaching 2,000 students monthly. All seven of the elementary schools in Walton County received the 3rd-grade curriculum! These young stewards planted 9,000 grasses in 54 salt marsh nurseries used to restore degraded shorelines in the Choctawhatchee Bay.
To better align our GIC curriculum with the new Common Core Standards, implemented across the state of Florida, CBA developed a new partnership with Northwest Florida State College’s Teacher Education Program. CBA and NWFSC developed a library of English and Language Arts resources that teachers can use to enhance the GIC program within their classrooms.
In the 5th year of the Grasses In Classes program, CBA implemented environmental education at 20 of the 28 elementary schools in Okaloosa and Walton Counties, reaching over 2,100 students in 101 classrooms monthly. CBA and AmeriCorps members taught the 3rd-grade curriculum to 900 students while the 5th-grade curriculum connected to 1,200 students.