February 11, 2014 – More than 100 fifth grade students from Apopka Elementary School had the opportunity to see Lake Apopka up close and personal during a recent field trip held in conjunction with the upcoming Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival and Birdapalooza.
Prior to the field trip, teacher Mike Roberts’ students built ten nest boxes to be put up at Orange County’s Magnolia Park. The nest boxes will contribute to the already legendary bird numbers and diversity surrounding Lake Apopka.
The field trip was a group effort between the University of Florida Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (UF/MREC), Orange County’s Magnolia Park, and volunteers from the Orange Audubon Society (OAS). Students rotated through three stations. The first was located lakeside on the shore of Lake Apopka where OAS volunteers guided the students on a nature walk. Students were able to check off a few avian species on their new checklists provided by OAS. Volunteers also discussed terrestrial and aquatic habitats as well as touching on the restorative efforts being made to improve the water quality of the lake.
Students then participated in an Eco Adventure tree/plant scavenger hunt throughout Magnolia Park. Their mission was to locate and learn about 15 of the many flora found on the property. After thirty minutes of exploration the group reconvened and was challenged by a nature game put on by the Magnolia Park education staff. Teachers were provided with handouts and materials to use back in the classroom.
The final stop on the trip was a laboratory experience at the UF/MREC facility adjacent to Magnolia Park. Representatives from the Reedy Creek Improvement District Environmental Services Department exposed students to careers in environmental science and water quality. Staff engaged students by demonstrating field sampling techniques and screening methods for chemical parameters such as pH and allowed them to test a variety of liquid samples. Students had the opportunity to identify live aquatic insect specimens using state of the art microscopes. They also learned the importance of analyzing both chemical and biological properties when determining the overall health of a water body.
The information they took away from the trip reinforces classroom instruction they have received in preparation for FCAT and upcoming Earth Day activities. Such field trips are invaluable as we nurture future scientists and stewards of the land by helping them directly apply to real world situations what they are learning in the classroom.