The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has expanded its rapidly growing STEM E-Learning Adventures program to include a new E-Learning Hub. Here, educational videos, ecology-focused crafts, outdoor data-collecting activities and interactive written exercises are available to both in-school and at-home learners.

In addition to offering online environmental education resources, Conservancy staff are now virtually hosting interactive, live animal encounters for area teachers and their students. The Conservancy’s animal ambassadors include snakes, alligators, turtles, an owl, bald eagle and red-tailed hawk.

When the pandemic began, the Conservancy created a series of online STEM E-Learning Adventures that included virtual field trips, videos, trivia and other web-based programs. Now, with the introduction of the E-Learning Hub, those offerings also include standards-aligned lesson plans for both e-learners and in-person classrooms, as well the opportunity to schedule live virtual animal encounters.

The E-Learning Hub helps connect students with the region’s diverse wildlife and habitats, offering hands-on, place-based science activities that encourage students to explore their local environment, which can include community parks, school grounds or their own backyard.

“Seeing students light up with excitement as they engage with us on a virtual platform is always rewarding,” said Tonya Zadrozny, education programs coordinator at the Conservancy. “While we miss seeing students in-person, we are excited for the opportunity to continue educating and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards on a digital platform.”

The STEM E-Learning Adventures program includes videos, art, science projects, experiments and observation, and is split among the three grade levels:

Elementary School

  • E-Learning: Topics include endangered species, Conservancy Touch Tank critters, local ecosystems, the importance of recycling and more. Programs explore the animals and wildlife that call Southwest Florida home through educational videos, crafts and projects.
  • Live Interactive Virtual Animal Encounters: Video calls with education staff and ambassador animals to explore what makes the wildlife of Southwest Florida unique.

Middle School

  • E-Learning: Topics include population surveys, habitat assessments, field sampling and data analysis on plants and animals native to Southwest Florida, focusing on the gopher tortoise and non-native lizards.
  • Live Interactive Virtual Animal Encounters: Video calls with education staff and ambassador animals to explore animal adaptations and ecological concepts.

High School

  • E-Learning: Topics include native and invasive species of wildlife in Southwest Florida, focusing on the Burmese python and how its emergence as an apex predator is disrupting the Everglades ecosystem. Students will create science journals and interactive population model simulations.
  • Live Interactive Virtual Animal Encounters: Video calls with Conservancy staff and a live python to explore why this invasive species is both a fascinating animal and an enormous threat to our local ecosystems.

“The E-Learning Hub reaffirms the Conservancy’s commitment to equitable environmental education,” said Alex Levine, Education Manager, Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “It doesn’t matter what school you attend, where you live, or what outdoor spaces are available to you. We want everyone to have the tools, knowledge, and encouragement to explore their local environment while learning about the amazing creatures we share this planet with.”

All programs are aligned with Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. The Conservancy’s STEM E-Learning Adventures are offered at no cost to students or schools through funding provided by Culture Builds Florida, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Arthrex and Aileen S. Andrew Foundation.

The Conservancy’s E-Learning Hub is available online at https://sites.google.com/view/conservancyelearninghub/home.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
 The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 55-year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land, wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.