When it comes to nature, seeing bugs, our ecosystems, and how it all works together there's one very special place in Hernando County to make sure kids see it all.
The Springs Coast Environmental Center is a partnership between Hernando County Schools and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
"It's a way to get them started and exploring nature on their own. It's a catalyst, it's a beginning for them," Cheryl Paradis, Director of Springs Coast Environmental Education Center said. "Here at the Environmental Center, I take that very seriously that we're not going to do things that are technology-based. We're going to get outside we're going to explore outside, and that's what this place does."
The center is located right on the Weeki Wachee River. Think of this place as a big hands-on science experiment for every second, fourth, fifth and sixth grader in Hernando County Schools.
"So each grade level has different activities, but they're all geared to engage students in nature. So it might be a nature walk, it might be a hike with a second-grader, it could be kayaking in the river with a sixth-grader, it could be making an animal footprint out of Plaster of Paris and finding out how to study and read an animal footprint," explained Paradis. "It's all the different ways to get a child engaged in nature. This is a complete immersion and get outside and find out what's around you. So we play games, mostly about noticing nature, and being respectful of it, and realizing that we're visitors to nature."
Paradis is adamant about leaving the technology out of this classroom. It's more about exploring and getting to feel and see all that nature has to offer.
"Of course, we have 23 acres on the Weeki Wachee River, which is spectacular first magnitude spring right up the river. And so our students get to see manatee, alligators, turtles, fish, I mean, we've had students see otters. It's pretty exciting to actually be in nature. We had a group of students watch turtles hatch out of eggs, and come down, fall down this walkway and get all the way in the river. We saw a turtle two weeks ago lay her eggs upland. I mean, and they were here to watch all of that. So this place provides that kind of opportunity," said Paradis.