In late 2008, marine science students held a town hall meeting and led several presentations for the Santa Rosa County Board of Commissioners and the SRC School Board about converting an empty, unoccupied ranger station into an environmental center. After overwhelming positive response from the community, students succeeded in obtaining the site in March 2009. Over 2,000 community service hours later the students, under faculty supervision had created what is now the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station. Since its official opening in August 2009, the Station has been host to well over 4,000 students and community members for programs concerning the local marine environments. The programs provide hands-on, feet-wet curriculum that educates and challenges participants from ages 3-33+ on how to be stewards of our marine environment. New programs have expanded to now include two high schools of duel-enrolled students (through Pensacola State College and Santa Rosa County Schools), field experiences for K-8 school children, Saturday programs for K-8 students, over-night programs for 3-8th graders, public open houses for visitors to Navarre Beach, summer camps, and programs geared for both pre-K students and their family and for students with special needs. All of the programs are designed to leave participants with a new found understanding and respect for their nearby marine ecosystems, as well a desire to protect and conserve the delicate habitats of Florida.
Along with the myriad of programs available to address on-going environmental issues, and current major impacts such as the oil spill, the station is also a hub for involving students and community members alike in environmental improvement activities. Dune renourishment efforts, beach clean-ups, ethical fishing labs, and in the future there is a plan to begin water quality monitoring give the participants a feeling of true responsibility and connection to the critical area they are protecting. The Gulf of Mexico is such a vital player in the role of the world’s oceans’ health, to neglect it is to neglect the planet as a whole. The students learn, and teach others, about the many important species from plankton to the whale sharks that rely on a healthy Gulf of Mexico. When they put the big picture spin on a small town focus, it really hits home with the students they teach that this is more than just a fun beach to play at, this is a unique and important ecosystem.
This project was begun with little impact on the surrounding dune habitat, but continues to improve the surrounding environment through the actions of its students. They maintain the areas around the Station, even on weekends and holidays, leading by example for those that visit their classroom by the sea. The sense of pride instilled in these students is unlike any seen in your typical teenager. It is all due to this Station, and the enthusiasm that took it from a dream to reality.
The mission of the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station is to promote the appreciation, conservation, and understanding of the marine ecosystem of coastal Florida through education and service.
The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station is a newly established marine station located at the Navarre Beach Park in Santa Rosa County, Florida. The center is the focal point of marine, natural resource and watershed education for Northwest Florida K-12 students, 4-H, and the community for years to come.
The Navarre High School Marine Science program has an annual enrollment of 400 students and has reached hundreds more through community Ocean Awareness Festivals. With the generous donation of the new Marine Science Station, students of all ages have the opportunity to discover the many wonders of marine life in environmentally rich Santa Rosa County. Navarre Beach Park offers 130 acres of sandy white beaches, lush wetlands, and native vegetation. One-third of the park is completely undeveloped and will remain in its natural state. The Navarre Beach Pier has been rebuilt on-site.
Santa Rosa County students enrolled in Dual Enrollment Marine Biology and Oceanography (attending classes at the station) will learn about the Gulf of Mexico, its watershed, ethical angling practices, and environmental issues facing the area through direct data collection, fishing clinics, and hands-on activities. High school students will teach younger students about the Gulf of Mexico in action packed, standards-driven two hour festivals to include learning stations focused on fishing limits, marine debris, casting skills, and various topics of study. A major goal of the project is to provide meaningful outdoor experiences for all students.