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Conservancy of Southwest Florida has launched the STEM Institute, a new education initiative for school-age students to enhance their knowledge and appreciation for science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM Institute at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida provides interactive programs targeting kindergarten through 12th grade students and teachers, including field trips, high school research-focused programs and STEM teacher workshops.

The STEM Institute was made possible by funding from a leadership grant from AT&T and other community partners. These funds support curriculum development, educational field trips and computer technology. Educational partners include Florida Gulf Coast University’s Whitaker Center for STEM Education and the Collier County School District. STEM education has become a national priority as research shows that knowledge, industries and careers focusing on science, technology, engineering and math are closely linked our nation’s workforce competition and economic prosperity.

“The goal of the STEM Institute at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is to develop the next generation of environmental leaders by providing children with hands-on educational programs to help them learn the importance of conservation,” said Conservancy President and CEO Rob Moher. “Thanks to the generous support of AT&T and our partners including The League Club and Bank of America, we now have the tools and resources to allow kids to interact and apply what they’re learning to the world around them.”

The Conservancy provides a real-world opportunity for students to better understand the scientific method and participate in STEM activities. Not only does the Ferguson Learning Lab provide the latest scientific technology, but the Conservancy Nature Center serves as an outdoor lab. Students set up monitoring stations in the Shotwell Wavering Filter Marsh, collect aquatic organisms and water samples and measure how effectively the marsh reduces pollution.

“These experiences not only enhance their understanding of science, technology, engineering and math, but they help kids develop a passion for nature,” said Conservancy Director of Education David Webb.

Studies show that environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue careers in environmental and natural resources.

“In a time when many children are disconnected from nature, it’s important that we make an investment in environmental education and outdoor learning,” said Webb.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
Conservancy of Southwest Florida began in 1964 when community leaders came together to defeat a proposed “Road to Nowhere” and spearheaded the acquisition and protection of Rookery Bay. The Conservancy is a not-for-profit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. This is accomplished through the combined efforts of environmental education, science, policy, and wildlife rehabilitation. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital treats in excess of 3,200 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half of them back into their native habitats. Conservancy of Southwest Florida and its Nature Center are located in Naples, Fla. at 1495 Smith Preserve Way south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit www.conservancy.org.