This video features interviews from the Environmental Education 40th anniversary celebration in addition to Everglades nature and education program footage (8 min. with closed-captions).
- Credit / Author:
- NPS Video by Jennifer Brown
- Date created:
Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming out today to help us celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Everglades Education program.
We were able to pin down the actual date that our program started.
And, that was April 19, 1971.
It is nice to be able to take some time and step back.
And, even though we have started up our season and things are busy.
It is nice to be able to take today to recognize our successes.
And to acknowledge this milestone.
And celebrate where we have come from and where we are headed from here.
The program started with a six week pilot program at Shark Valley.
The first program brought inner city schools out to the park to Shark Valley for a fishing program and also to visit the fire tower.
I am Ranger Yvette.
I know you guys have been on the bus forever and ever and ever.
But, we promise you guys three days of jam packed fun.
Can you handle that?
Listen, we freed you from your classrooms.
You got to be a little more excited than that...OK?
Are you excited about camping at Loop Road for three days!?
OK, that is better, that is better.
The Environmental Ed programs started nothing near to what we have here today.
But, it started back in 1971.
So, we are very, very excited that we have been up and running for 40 years.
I like to think that, personally, in my six years with the Education Department...
And, the thousands of students that I interacted with on day programs and special programs and camp programs...
That among those thousands and thousands of students, perhaps a bakers dozen, learned something from what I was saying all those many years.
You know, back in the early 1960’s, I think he is known as the strongest director of the National Park Service.
A guy named George Herzog.
And, he was the one who really said, you know, parks are out there.
They are a great place to have people connect with their environment.
And, he told the park service to start an Environmental Education program.
And, he was a pretty powerful guy.
And he talked about connecting people with the parks.
But he also talked about how important it was for people to understand their relationship to the environment.
Immediately after that, of course, we started our Environmental Education program in 1971.
And the rest is history.
You start to think about how many students have come through this program:
380,000 students have come through this program.
I mean, it is pretty phenomenal.
Oh, it would be a disservice to everyone not to have this program.
I think about my personal students.
I do teach science.
And, we are just less than ten minutes away, straight down the road!
And, many of my kids have never been to the Everglades.
And, once they experience this, they too will change whatever fears that they may have.
And, it is the fear of the unknown, really.
Or, if it takes them out of their comfort zone.
And, that they would gain a deeper respect for the world in which we live in.
Because then they would want to be advocates for this fabulous place.
And, I think that is why it is important for people to have these experiences.
In 1971, there was a small place in the Everglades.
There was a ranger who lived there alone.
His name was Bruce McHenry.
He was a man of vision.
He invited other rangers to tromp out through the water in the Everglades.
Thus, the swamp tromp.
We came to visit.
Bruce called it the Environmental Education program.
And, he loved it.
Little did the visitors know that this would change all of their lives forever.
In general, most of the park’s staff thought we were kind of crazy.
As you saw earlier.
But, they persevered and became an unstoppable team...of young rangers.
It was not too long before they talked teachers into coming.
You guys were from the city.
You were city slickers.
And, the experience was new for you.
The teachers then brought the students to learn about this special place called Everglades National Park.
And pretty soon, the teachers wanted more and more and more.
You all are a greedy bunch.
The place became an outdoor classroom.
And, the rangers and the teachers...
They wanted day programs, camping programs, special visit programs, off-site visits, traveling trunks, teacher workshops, curriculum guides, curriculum kits, and you go on and on and on.
And, you are still not happy.
It was never enough.
And, the rangers...
It is often said that the lifeblood of the Everglades is water.
But, I am not so sure that is really true.
The lifeblood of Everglades and Everglades National Park lies within and always will lie within those who fight for it, protect it, and...
Oh my gosh...
Oh my gosh.
I can not sleep with wild animals.
Oh my gosh.
Every year, we have been lucky enough to bring our students to the Everglades for the Shark Valley field trip.
And, it is amazing.
And, they are fascinated by what they see.
And, they go back to school.
They can not wait to go back and tell their parents.
They can not wait to come back here.
It is not like nothing they have ever seen before.
And, they are thrilled by it.
And, as a teacher, I am thrilled to be able to give them this opportunity.
What we are looking for is to give people, give students a positive experience.
And, help them to make a positive connection to the Everglades and to our natural world.
With the idea that they will carry that on throughout their lives.
And, whether they turn into teachers that share it with someone.
Or just a really great parent or friend who shares it with the people that they know around them.
That is as important as we can get.
And, that is turning people into park stewards.
The story that I wanted to tell took place on a really beautiful spring day when I was a volunteer for the 4th grade Shark Valley tram trip.
And, it is a very, very well put together program with an offal lot of preparation.
We heard about the prep tonight at this program.
And, the bus pulled up on time.
And, it unloaded the kids.
And, on the bus was a little girl in a wheelchair with two extra people with her.
And, one of the things that the park service is rigid about is you got to register everyone.
And, if they are special needs, we have to know.
And, the school had not alerted that we had a child in a wheelchair.
She was a beautiful blue-eyed, blond little girl.
And, she was a quadriplegic from a car accident.
And, the rangers conferred really quickly because really protocol might have been that she and her adults could not go.
And, there was no way she was not getting on the tram.
And, so quietly without any fuss, the wheelchair and the two extra adults got put on the tram and we went on the tram trip.
And, the highlight of that trip for me, besides the compassion and the commitment that I saw on the staff was when we dug up the periphyton.
Which is this gooey, ooey, ugly, scary looking algae mat.
And, they passed the pieces around.
And, the aides and the ranger put a glob of periphyton on this little girl’s hand and squeezed it.
And, the look on her face, the delight, the joy, the awe, the surprise will never leave me.
And, that is the Everglades Environmental Education program to me.
Just a very big thank you to the National Park Service program and to the rangers for making it possible.
And, for allowing us to be a part of it.