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where the wild things should be

Where the Wild Things Should Be

Learning and Teaching the Value of Environmental Stewardship

Words by Sheri Mahoney, Upper Division Science Instructor

Sheri Mahoney is in her 3rd year of teaching at Academy at the Lakes as the Upper Division Life Sciences teacher. Sheri is obsessed with manatees, marine iguanas, and everything else that is vascularized. Living in Florida is a dream for her and she still can’t get over how lucky she is to live and work in paradise. Sheri lives in Seminole heights with her partner, two dogs, and cat. In her free time, Sheri can be found near, on, or in the water.

 

Learning the Importance of Environmental Stewardship

When I was 6, my grandparents moved to Florida. On the way home from our first visit with them, my family stopped at a roadside fruit stand where we purchased a container of kumquats.

When we opened it back home in Tennessee, I peered in and found a beautiful little green tree frog that I named George.

I loved George.

I hunted bugs to feed him, checked his water every day, and sat and stared at him through the aquarium every night.

When my grandfather visited three months later, however, my mother made me give him George to take back to Florida. I tearfully asked my grandfather to promise me to release George on his back yard citrus tree so I could visit my frog the next time I was in Florida.

However, I never saw George again, and it was a long while before I forgave my mother for making me give up my beloved pet.

As usual, my mother was correct and I eventually saw the value in this experience.

Loving George and sending him back with my grandfather turned out to be the most influential science lesson of my life, and this is a lesson that I work to instill in my students every day.

Wild things are wonderful. Wild things should be protected. Wild things belong in the wild.

 

Naturally Embracing These Lessons

If you’ve never stood on our dock in silence or walked our McManus property, you are missing out–they are breathtaking. Our land reflects the diversity of our beautiful state and we are perfectly situated where two spectacular ecosystems meet, a place called an ecotone.

In nature, an ecotone is where we see the greatest diversity of life. Our campus is an environmental scientist’s dream, and it’s a dream I get to live in every single day with my class.

 

In nature, an ecotone is where we see the greatest diversity of life. Our campus is an environmental scientist’s dream, and it’s a dream I get to live in every single day with my class.

 

In one year of environmental science, our bird species identification list is greater than 50, which is no easy feat.

In all classifications categories, we have rare species, common species, endangered species, and invasive species. This all makes our campus the perfect lab for our environmental lessons.

 

Impacting Students

Every day, each of us probably drives or walks by 100 turkey vultures or black vultures. They are very common in Florida. We usually take this for granted because they are vultures and they eat dead things.

In early December, my students, all for the very first time, stopped to see the beauty in these birds.

For 15 minutes they sat silently, glued to their binoculars and kneeling on the ground, while we watched 15-20 vultures fight over and feed on a rabbit carcass.

My students identified individuals, noted their behavior, and now pay more attention to vultures (which, by the way, are a crucial part of our ecosystem and magnificent creatures in my book).

Something like this happens every time we are out in the field. Sometimes it’s a bug, sometimes it’s a plant, and sometimes it’s a reptile.

This is never hard to find; this beauty is just there waiting for us to learn the lessons nature has to teach.

 

This beauty is just there waiting for us to learn the lessons nature has to teach.

 

environmental science class

 

Giving Back

I asked this community for a boat at the end of my first year here and through generous parent donations, faculty and staff buy-in, and the power of a dream, the science department obtained a boat.

We were also given spectacular field equipment which strengthens the data my class collects.

Through these gifts, students learn about the ecosystem through experiential activities rather than out of a book.

 

Through these gifts, students learn about the ecosystem through experiential activities rather than out of a book.

 

Academy lets me take students on kayak trips, long hikes, and boat rides through Homosassa River.

Our school community participates in volunteer river clean-ups, beach improvements, and invasive species removal. This community has shown me again and again in myriad ways that it values environmental stewardship.

Academy at the Lakes strongly believes in the value of a student’s environmental education:

That wild things are wonderful.

Wild things should be protected.

And wild things belong in the wild.

 


A School that Shares Your Values

Academy at the Lakes is a PreK3 – 12th Grade independent school located in North Tampa. We celebrate the love of learning and the joy in the journey.

Learn more about our values and schedule a tour