The Environmental Studies Center’s Sea Grant-sponsored program, Project SEA ICE, has been selected as an award winner in the Environmental Education Association of Alabama’s (EEAA) 2010 Best Environmental Education Programs in Alabama (BEEP) Awards. The program was named Best Environmental Course/Curriculum, and the winning project will be on display at EEAA’s annual conference March 4-6 at the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge in Guntersville, Ala.
The program will receive a free registration to the annual conference, a commemorative plaque and a $250 cash award.
Funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Project SEA ICE (Special Enrichment Activities in Coastal Ecology) is an ongoing project in field study about wildlife and habitat diversity in coastal Alabama. It involves both teachers and students from Mobile County’s 13 public high schools. Biology, environmental science and marine biology teachers participate in professional development activities designed to increase knowledge of the wildlife indigenous to the Mobile Bay “eco-zone.” They also develop teaching strategies to prepare their students for classroom and field study activities prescribed for the project.
Teachers are able to enhance their content knowledge through lectures by wildlife experts, examination of current species data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and observation of the effects of various agents, including invasive species, on habitat viability. Encounters with numerous terrestrial and aquatic coastal inhabitants at the Environmental Studies Center also broaden the teachers’ awareness of area wildlife.
After the professional development activities, teachers return to their schools to engage their students in classroom and field experiences. Students learn to identify coastal and marine species common to the northern Gulf of Mexico and populations classified as endangered, threatened or of concern. The program also highlights examples of environmental efforts to promote species recovery and promotes positive behavioral changes regarding individual stewardship for the area’s coastal wildlife resources.
Since its inception in 2006, new professional development activities have been provided each year to enhance teacher knowledge of coastal biology and current conditions influencing the successes and declines in species diversity. Student involvement in Project SEA ICE exceeded 2,600 through January of 2010.
The Environmental Studies Center is an outdoor education facility operated by the Mobile County Public School System to provide experiential learning in natural science and environmental education. The BEEP Awards were co-sponsored by the Cullman County Soil & Water Conservation District, the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Marshall County Soil & Water Conservation District.