500 attend Environmental Education Fair

Sallie O’Hara told local Historic City News reporters that last weekend’s Environmental Education Fair was attended by more than 500 children and adults from St. Johns and Flagler counties.

Saturday’s main event, hosted by the Friends of A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway, was the first festival event for the River-to-Sea Preserve West near Marineland.

Activities included five hours of educational presentations, nature work stations, storytelling, games and face painting, music, nature trail walks and kayaking opportunities on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Exhibitors included Ocean Publishing, Spurlin Books, Palm Coast Garden Club, AnJ Recycling, Ripple Effect Ecotours and Sagaponack Books.

All who attended learned more about the environment, the 72-miles of SR-A1A that spans St. Johns and Flagler counties, and the 90-acre River-to-Sea Preserve and its beautiful lake and walking trails. This county park is due for a facelift next year with recently acquired grant funding courtesy of Friends of A1A and Flagler County.

The entertainment of the day was alternating music and storytelling by Chris Kastle, a musician and storyteller who also served as emcee; the Dunehoppers; Kaye Byrnes; and Maia Gitana. Also present was Capt William Mayhem of The Pirate Museum; the Balloon Boy; and Clowning with Calamity, a face painter. Food vendors were Mother Fletchers, the Big Easy, Sandalina Treats and Jaspers BBQ.

The day ended with a raffle for prizes at area vacation destinations that included the Hammock Beach Resort, St Augustine’s Casa Monica and many city attractions and Flagler Beach’s Topaz Hotel, kayaking and other sights.

Friday, prior to the event, fourth graders from Rymfire Elementary School took a field trip to the River-to-Sea Preserve East to experience “Ocean Literacy” lessons. During their three-hour trip, they visited nine learning stations, rotating every 10 minutes, to learn about litter abatement, the value of ocean habitats and other conservation activities.

The learning stations were presented by:

• Beth Zander of the Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol
• Dr Maia Patterson McGuire SEA Grant Program at the University of Florida
• Melissa Kafel of Washington Oaks State Park
• Eileen Tramontana of the St Johns River Water Management District
• Meredith Horn of the Dolphin Conservation Center
• Katie King Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
• Katie Girvin of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm & Zoological Park
• Amber Weiss of the Florida Archeological Network
• Monique Borboen of the Audubon Society of Florida

The students signed “I Pledge to Give Nature a Hand” commitments and donned red shirts and hats provided by Friends of A1A to create interactive art on the boardwalk.

With painted pledge boards and accompanied by pirate Capt. Mayhem, they were captured in a flyover by aerial photographer, Bob Hanson and pilot, Sam Baressi.

The students were aided at the learning stations by 15 volunteers, nine teachers and 18 chaperones. The Ocean Literacy lessons were provided to teachers, along with curriculum activities for the next school year.

Prior to the event, the students from Rymfire Elementary in Palm Coast had been learning about how to connect daily living good habits with helping nature. Concepts and practices about recycling, litter and how to keep oceans and waterways clean by being environmentally conscious were taught. An art contest was held as well.

That evening, the public gathered at the Lohman Auditorium at the University of Florida’s Whitney Lab for an interactive lecture by renowned author and publisher Frank Gromling.

His topic, “Giving Nature a Hand,” explained the importance of recycling, reusing and reducing the things we do and being conscious of the delicate ocean environment.

Prior to Gromling’s presentation, Dr. McGuire led tours of the Whitney Labs Touch Tanks along with a Whitney docent. The Science Fair winners exhibiting were: Lagan Mullinon: the Effects of Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and Folic Acid on Mice; Isabel Nunez: Think before you toss – How cigarette butts impact the estuarine shrimp Palaemonetes pugio; Sanjana Bhargava: Vitamin C Vicissitude; and Patrick McGuire and Miles Ward: A Head for Conservation.

After the lecture, a gathering of area environmental and A1A authors was available for book signings. On hand were: Jane Wood, Karen Harvey, Frank Gromling, Dr. Patricia Griffin, Dr. Thomas Graham, Bill Ryan, Jay Humphreys, Barbara Spurlin, Frances Keiser and Dr. Maia Patterson McGuire.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by Sallie O’Hara

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