A Florida Virtual School environmental science course is using real events to motivate students to take an active role in conservation efforts

This virtual science course uses real-life conservation examples to inspire students

A Florida Virtual School environmental science course is using real events to motivate students to take an active role in conservation efforts

Through these videos, students can see what happens when we throw plastic in the trash rather than reusing or recycling. One video highlights the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and how single-use plastics that break down to microplastics negatively affect the aquatic ecosystem. For example, fish breathe microplastics through their gills, birds then eat those fish, and the bird then starves because it cannot pass the plastic. The visuals of this real-life example help students put into perspective the impact of plastics on the ocean. It also demonstrates how when we protect the ocean, we help its inhabitants live a healthy life. 

It’s imperative that we teach students how valuable healthy oceans and the preservation of endangered marine species are to all of us and to the environment in terms of economic impact and sustainability. Sharks, for example, have the reputation of being aggressive and dangerous, and that leads to fear. Instead, we should teach an appreciation of how important each ocean creature is and what we can learn from them.

Climate change

We’ve all heard that we need to stop polar ice from melting, but why? Climate change is such a massive issue that can be difficult to comprehend without seeing it first-hand. To show students what is happening to the polar ice caps, we partnered with scientists in Greenland to create videos that include experiments.

One video shows the Greenland scientists examining ice samples melting around the lake. As students see bubbles forming on the lake, one scientist makes an air pocket in the snow and lights it on fire. How? Methane gas. Showing this real-life example highlights how this greenhouse gas adds to the thermal blanket that is trapping heat and creating extreme weather conditions.

Videos throughout the course are also coupled with enrichment activities that bring the lessons to life. For example, the climate change enrichment activity allows students to use everyday household items such as plastic cups, water, vinegar, lemon juice, and more to test the effects of acidic chemical weathering on inorganic and organic substances. By the end of the activity, students can see that acid erodes both organic and inorganic materials and demonstrates how damaging acid rain is to the earth. 

The importance of mangroves and seagrass  

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation has taken a leadership role in providing the scientific information necessary to understand and protect the world’s fish resources and biodiversity from continued decline.

In one course lesson we have provided scientific information relating to the importance of mangroves and seagrass. We produced several videos that highlight the role of mangroves in absorbing carbon from shallow waters, how they filter water and control erosion, protect coastlines from storm surges, and more. These videos are a great resource for students who have never seen mangroves or seagrass before, as it highlights how we need them to have a stable aquatic ecosystem as well as to protect our human habitats.

The course also showcases dozens of STEM careers that students could pursue in the growing fields of environmental and marine science – showing how they can make a long-lasting difference in our planet’s ecosystem.

When students are exposed to what’s available to them in environmental and marine sciences and discover the world around us and its inhabitants, they’ll be excited to learn. When that happens, they become vested in the environment and conservation, and we will have succeeded in passing our stewardship on to the next generation. They may also decide this is the field of study they would like to pursue in the future. That’s a win for all of us–including our environment, ocean, and friends in the sea.

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