Bridgett Zayas/Contributing Writer
“Pneumatophore,” shouted the enthusiastic camper as he correctly identified a Portuguese Man O’ War. Monday, July 10, the young participants of FIU’s ninth annual EcoAcademy learned about ecosystems just steps away from the ocean at the Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami.
Hosted by the School of Environment, Arts and Society, the EcoAcademy is a marine science program focusing on teaching kids ages 6-14 about sea life, ecosystems, STEM solutions and the age of the anthropocene.
Nicholas Ogle, director of EcoAcademy, said there was a need for this type of program to be available for students.
“The more we can educate the community on environmental issues especially in South Florida, like coral bleaching, and sea level rise, we’ll be able to solve problems that apply directly to us,” Ogle said.
The thematically driven camp, according to Ogle, focuses mainly on water recreation during the first half of the day, including activities such as swimming, kayaking and snorkeling. The second half of the day is based on the theme of the week and includes dissections, art and crafts, games and making models.
“Our main goal is to educate the public so we can have a conversation in the face of these issues,” Ogle said.
The Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology is an institution which integrates education and research at FIU. The center participates in EcoAcademy by visiting the campers during technology week to give presentations on some of the equipment and technology they use in their research labs.
“We’re trying to create the STEM solutions and professionals of tomorrow and it starts with programs like this,” Ogle said. “If you can spark an interest, it doesn’t matter if it’s in ecosystem science, marine biology or engineering, than what we’re doing here is successful and exciting for us.”
Building a more informed community is the most important aspect to take away from EcoAcademy, Ogle said, and is the main reason why SEAS originally started the program almost a decade ago. This is why Ogle finds it important to make sure children become educated about these necessary ecosystems.
“The more we educate ourselves on all of those topics, the more of a meaningful dialogue we can have as a community and the sooner we can start moving towards real solutions,” Ogle said.
Image by Anthony Monzon/PantherNOW