For ten years now, Floridians have celebrated Everglades Day on April 7, to honor the birthday of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the journalist, author and conservationist whose defense of the Everglades changed millions of minds about the value of the iconic Florida watershed.
For those of us in South Florida, every day is Everglades Day.
The Everglades is the source of our drinking water and the freshwater with which we also clean our dishes and brush our teeth every day. Without water from the Everglades, South Florida would be uninhabitable.
The Everglades is also critical to our livelihoods, an economic engine that powers job creation throughout the Sunshine State. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the recreational fishing industry alone, which greatly depends on a healthy Everglades, has an economic impact of $9.2 billion in Florida.
In addition, the Everglades is one of our greatest defenses against climate change impacts and rising sea levels. A healthy, hydrated Everglades is what scientists call a “carbon sink” since it removes carbon from the atmosphere while storing it throughout the ecosystem.
Tourists come from all over the world to see alligators and crocodiles sharing the same space (the only place on Earth where they co-exist), in addition to the remaining 2,000 species of flora and fauna found in the Everglades. People come to fish, to camp and to take in the sights and sounds of this massive UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.
For us in South Florida, America’s Everglades is literally our own backyard – but to appreciate it, to restore it, we must first learn about it.
That’s where The Everglades Foundation comes in.
In seven years, The Foundation’s Everglades Literacy Program has trained 4,500 teachers in 27 school districts, and has reached more than 150,000 students thus far. The long-term sustainability of Everglades restoration depends on the youth of today. Their understanding of the ecological and economic value of the Everglades is critical if we are to restore this magnificent ecosystem.
The Foundation hosts free teacher training programs that are exhilarating and lively, with teachers learning new techniques and classroom projects that combine science, technology, engineering, and math in an Everglades-based curriculum that students and teachers alike enjoy.
Every teacher who takes part receives free lessons and materials plus a free online K-12 Teacher Toolkit with more than 36 comprehensive Everglades lessons – each of which is designed to align with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.
We also offer a K-12 Everglades Champion School program, to recognize exceptional schools who have integrated Everglades literacy into their schools and communities.
Your child’s school should take advantage of the free Everglades Literacy Program. You can request a free teacher training for your school or district by visiting our website, www.evergladesliteracy.org to explore our K-12 interdisciplinary Everglades curriculum. Check out our free bite-sized supplemental online lessons that can be implemented over any digital platform.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas knew that to save her beloved Everglades, people needed to learn about the UNESCO World Heritage Site that supports us all. The Everglades Literacy Program continues her work on what would be her 132nd birthday.
Give the gift of Everglades education today by sharing our free resources with your community. Collectively we can protect our children’s future through the power of education.
Bianca Cassouto is Education Program Manager for The Everglades Foundation.