Inwater Research Group Provides Unique Sea Turtle Education Program
Rebecca Mott, Education Programs Manager, Inwater Research Group
In 2016, IRG was able to make amazing strides in the field of conservation education. We wrapped up our Treasured Turtles: Treasure Coast Sea Turtle Outreach Program for At-risk Youth. This program allowed us to find the most severely underserved schools in our surrounding school districts and offer them free in-class programs. Students were able to get hands-on with real artifacts and step into the role of biologists as they assessed and collected data from their very own model turtle. We visited four school districts, taught myriad of grade levels, and reached nearly 1,500 students. In addition to this grant program, we continued to visit schools by request in surrounding school districts. Engaging in-class presentations and demonstrations were delivered to over 500 students. Along with our Treasured Turtles grants program, we were able to reach over 2,000 students from 55 classrooms giving over 78 presentations.
Our Traveling Turtles: Traveling Trunk Program is a hands-on, experiential way for students to feel what it’s like to practice real science. Our traveling trunks are available to local teachers, who may run its 4-lesson module for up to three weeks in their classrooms. Kits include artifacts, biological tools, model turtles, interactive videos, and a ready-made lesson binder. Teachers and district coordinators laud its inquiry-based nature and its free status. Students are engaged with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) content and enjoy the feeling of being a marine biologist as they run through the same data collection marine biologists do on a daily basis.

In 2015, the program was in such high demand that our two trunks could not accommodate all requests. Because of this, we launched two more trunks, totaling four to reach as many students locally as we could. Within two months, the program booked once again to capacity and this year we are slated to reach over 10,000 students in Martin and St. Lucie County School Districts.

Third grade students from Mariposa Elementary “work up” their turtle specimen
Despite our extensive local reach, our program could not extend further than Martin and St. Lucie County due to the trunks’ cumbersome nature. We want students from all over the State to be able to participate in this program and to subsequently understand not only how unique Florida is but how best we can protect its ecosystem and inhabitants.Because of this, we developed Traveling Turtles of Florida: a Statewide Traveling Trunk Program.

We re-created 5 of our successful trunks and after a statewide application process, selected 5 other conservation-based organizations in Florida to help us launch the program. Selected organizations were able to participate in this program free as funds for the grant were partially underwritten by the National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation. After organizations received the program contents, IRG worked with them to help get the trunks up and running in their local schools, with each programs’ inception coinciding with the 2016-17 school year.
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National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation
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