Monday, December 6, 2021


~Reserves promote estuarine education in the classroom~


Teachers learn about estuaries from Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. 

NAPLES, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office hosted Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE), an educational program that provides hands-on, field-based activities for teachers to increase their knowledge and appreciation of estuarine environments and to support teaching estuary and watershed topics in the classroom. Developed by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, five TOTE workshops have been held for teachers in four of the gulf states, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. This marks the first time FCO has hosted a TOTE workshop.

“Our program is targeted toward middle school curriculum,” said Sarah Falkowski, education coordinator for Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples. “The goal of TOTE is to improve teachers’ and students’ understanding of the environment using local examples and to provide resources and hands-on experience, as well as to promote stewardship of watersheds and estuaries.”

The Naples workshop, held Aug. 5-6, featured programs led by education coordinators from the Florida Coastal Office’s GTM Research Reserve in Northeast Florida, Rookery Bay Research Reserve in Naples and Apalachicola Reserve in the Panhandle, as well as the Mission-Aransas Reserve in Texas. Teachers from Collier County, and around Florida and Alabama learned about issues facing estuaries in Southwest Florida through field trips into the Rookery Bay estuary as well as hands-on sessions addressing water quality, invasive species and watershed management.

TOTE participants will be able to help their students:

  • Appreciate the important connection between the ocean and humans;
  • Understand estuarine ecology, including functions and values of estuaries;
  • Enhance their abilities to analyze and interpret data;
  • Grasp how scientists use data to study and protect ocean resources;
  • Better understand the scientific method, including the concept that science is an on-going, iterative process; and
  • Foster a sense of stewardship of watersheds, estuaries and oceans.

The Gulf States TOTE program was funded through a grant from NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education Training program. For more information about the program

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