Education is typically thought of as taking place in a classroom, but through the REEF Ocean Explorers Education Program, learning can happen in unexpected places - like music festivals, craft breweries, and art classes! As a Marine Conservation Intern last fall, and in my current role as Education & Outreach Fellow, I have many opportunities to participate in public education, community outreach, and events. Community outreach is important for REEF because it enables us to connect with a wide range of audiences, including different age groups, backgrounds, and interests. Attending events helps REEF reach and inspire more people with our marine conservation mission. These people include individuals and groups who would not otherwise know about REEF, or have the chance to connect with conservation. In the past ten months alone, REEF has engaged with more than 3,000 individuals at community events in the Florida Keys.
Last fall, we participated in the annual "Trunk or Treat" at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where we talked to families and children about some of the spookiest creatures in the sea. REEF interns also teach free weekly fish ID presentations for Pennekamp guests and tourists, some of whom are visiting the Florida Keys for the first time. Many of these people then go on a snorkel trip or glass bottom boat tour at the coral reef. This spring, we took part in the Conservation Village at Tortuga Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale, where we had an interactive booth with a trivia wheel, games, and educational activities about invasive lionfish, and we're looking forward to a summer filled with even more community engagement. My experiences at REEF have taught me that there are opportunities for education all around us, even in places you may not expect!