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~LIFE program at Tampa Bay Watch offers youth a chance to learn and protect ecosystems~


Students carefully plant sea oats along the coastline to provide dune protection. 

TAMPA - Middle and high school students are storming the beaches at Fort De Soto Park in order to rescue local sand dunes by setting up a protective barrier of sea oats. Having started on Friday, May 9 and continuing through May 14, students are conducting experiments, labs and restoration efforts throughout the waterways in Pinellas County. 

The students from Bay Point Middle School participating in this week's activities will not only be planting sea oats along the coastline, but will also conduct two lab studies off of a boat at Tampa Bay Watch. The studies will consist of a plankton investigation followed by a look into local fish adaptations, in addition to exploring other areas of the local ecosystem. Older students from Lakewood High School are present to assist and mentor the younger environmental advocates. 

"Middle school students investigated water quality at Lake Maggiore, explored the mangroves of Weedon Island and planted sea oats on the beach at Fort De Soto Park," said Greg Ira, director of the Department's Office of Environmental Education and Sustainable Initiatives. "Knowing how much they’ve learned during these three field experiences is just as gratifying as knowing that for many, these few days will likely be their most memorable experiences of middle school."

In the summer of 2013, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Environmental Education and Sustainable Initiatives launched a new location for its Learning In Florida's Environment (LIFE) program in Pinellas County at Tampa Bay Watch. Also known as the Gulf-to-Bay program, it is funded by a two-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Bay-Watershed Education and Training program.

Since 2004, more than 21,000 future scientists and environmental stewards have participated in the LIFE program. The LIFE initiative established a systematic and statewide network of field-based, environmental-science programs that bring students out to public lands to learn science. The goals of the LIFE program are increased student achievement, teacher professional development in science, increased participation of undeserved and under-represented populations and increased stewardship of public lands. For more information about the department’s LIFE and other Office of Environmental Education programs, click here