It was a busy summer for REEF’s Explorers Education Program, between the Ocean Explorers Summer Camp and the “Nature Days” program with the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter. Throughout the summer, 80 children joined REEF to learn about marine conservation and environmental science in a fun, outdoor setting. Thank you to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Coral Reef Park Company, Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, Island Dolphin Care, and the Everglades Outpost who made these programs possible.
To kick the summer off, we had our fourth annual Ocean Explorers Summer Camp. For three jam-packed weeks, REEF hosted children ages 7-12 at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which provided a perfect venue to actively engage kids in ocean-centric activities. Our days were full of kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, and of course some fish ID. We had visitors from the Everglades Outpost and Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center to teach the campers all about the difference between invasive and native species, as well as the importance of protecting our native species here in the Florida Keys. In addition to conservation activities, intern Ronnie Noonan designed a new activity - the "New World Scavenger Hunt.” With help from the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, she developed an interactive and educational program that led the campers through the early history and exploration of the Florida Keys. Summer camp was very successful, and many children said they couldn’t wait to come back next year. Thank you to the following generous supporters, who supplied eight scholarships to deserving campers: The Upper Keys Rotary Club, Parrot Heads of the Upper Keys, REEF members Annette and Paul Felix, and the Waterhouse Family Fund. Your support made it possible for even more children to attend Ocean Explorers Summer Camp!
In addition to summer camp, we coordinated “Nature Days” programs in partnership with Florida Keys Children’s Shelter (FKCS) and Ocean Reef Community Foundation. This program was designed to provide children in the shelter ranging from ages 12-17 an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and learn about conservation. Days were split between Island Dolphin Care, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the Everglades Outpost, giving the kids the chance to kayak, snorkel, and observe Florida's wildlife up close. “This program offered our youth the opportunity to participate in activities that they never would have been able to do otherwise,” said Mark Olshansky, FKCS Resident Coordinator. In fact, some of the participants had never been on a boat prior to participating in the program! We are proud of this amazing collaboration with the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter and the Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services, and are very thankful for the support of the Ocean Reef Community Foundation, who made this program possible.
Check out our Explorers Program page for more information on our education programs!