PORT ST. LUCIE – The Oxbow Eco-Center is excited to partner with Florida Atlantic University’s Environmental Education Department, and Florida Sea Grant to offer The St. Lucie Watershed and Wildlife Virtual Afterschool Program with St. Lucie County’s 21st Century Learning Centers’ (21st CCLC) students. This program is made possible by $89,000 in grant funding from the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and supported by the U.S. Department of Education.

The ‘St. Lucie Watershed and Wildlife’ afterschool program aspires to engage students in watershed themed STEM activities and develop positive attitudes towards aquatic systems. While focusing on wetland wildlife, students will discover St. Lucie County’s watersheds and their related threats. Students will become environmental stewards while practicing science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Place-based learning will empower them to be the voices of St. Lucie watersheds by working with local NOAA scientists as subject matter experts to plan and implement service learning projects in our community.

Students will learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) while also building leadership and advocacy skills by participating in exciting hands-on learning activities and connecting to nature. Due to current public health guidelines, implementation is being adapted until normal operations are possible once again. In the meantime, the St. Lucie Watershed and Wildlife Afterschool Program will begin virtually for the fall 2020 semester.

Funding for this program was made possible from NAAEE and NOAA’s Watershed STEM Education Partnership Grant, which is awarding $2.35 million to 29 environmental education organizations that will partner with NOAA to provide enriching after school watershed-related STEM projects. These grants will support programming for a total of 91 local 21st CCLC sites and their students, many of whom live in high poverty and underserved areas. The 29 selected projects are serving 17 states, ranging from Alaska to Florida. These Watershed STEM Education Partnership Grants allow environmental education organizations to collaborate directly with the 21st CCLC sites on the design and implementation of locally relevant, out-of-school-time programs that develop students’ environmental literacy and leadership skills as they improve their communities. The funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by NAAEE.

These grants are part of eeBLUE, NAAEE’s effort to build collaborative partnerships that support the mutual STEM education goals of NOAA and the U.S. Department of Education. “We greatly appreciate the hard work of NAAEE and all the grantees to create these amazing STEM opportunities for students across the country,” said Louisa Koch, Director of Education at NOAA.

“It is so exciting to launch this unique opportunity and work together with NOAA and the Department of Education to support educators and 21st CCLC sites. Combining our strengths is a force multiplier in both creating equitable STEM opportunities for students across the country, and strengthening Environmental Education programs. Together, we can help build a more equitable and sustainable future,” says T’Noya Thompson, Environmental Education Specialist at NAAEE and Program Manager for the grant. “These programs will enrich communities around the country, and ultimately cultivate a sense of stewardship within everyone involved.”

The Oxbow Eco-Center is a St. Lucie County Environmental Learning Center encompassing 225 acres along the St. Lucie River, located at 5400 NE St. James Drive in Port St. Lucie. For more information, contact the Oxbow at 772-785-5833 or oxbow@stlucieco.org or visit the website at www.oxboweco.com.

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