The Everglades Literacy Program teaches children how the environment helps the future

September 8 – When it comes to conservation and truly understanding the importance of the Florida Everglades, it’s vital to talk to today’s children so tomorrow’s future can be bright.

Jennifer Diaz, the Vice President of Education for the Everglades Foundation, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the education program at the foundation.

The Everglades Literacy Program includes a team of educators that serve teachers in the schools.

Diaz said, “We provide our teachers with a toolkit, a ton of instructional resources and Champion Schools Program. Really just to lift their current instructional materials and make sure that they have a lot of information and tools that they don’t have to look far for to make sure they can teach about their environment in a wonderful, exiting, fun way.”

Students will be informed about how important the Everglades are to lower Florida.

Diaz said, “The Everglades is our water supply. It gets kids to love the environment. To learn about what lives in it, what thrives there, what basic needs do these organisms need to these imperiled species to survive for many generations to come. Also about our water and how important water is and how do we protect that?”

It is a free program to all public, private and parochial schools and is voluntary on the part of the teachers. The toolkit can be worked into the curriculum in the schools.

Diaz said, “We work really hard to make sure that our lessons meet your district and state standards. If you’re going to teach about ecology, let’s make sure we start right in our own backyard.”

The education program at the Everglades Foundation has been running for eight years. There are more than 5,000 teachers in 28 school districts that take part in the program.

There are about 75 teachers that have been trained in Monroe County.

The literacy program has also been translated into Spanish. Haitian and Creole are in the works as well.

Students need to understand the importance of the Everglades because people in Monroe County rely on it for water.

Diaz said, “We want to make sure that everybody in the next generation understands how important it is to our livelihoods and what a unique, incredible ecosystem we have sitting right in our own backyard.”

The Champion School Program looks to highlight schools that are doing incredible things for the environment.

Diaz said, “This is a program where they submit an application and they just tell us everything that’s happening and they really make conservation a core part of their curriculum and what’s happening at their school and they get recognized for it.”

The Leadership Committee includes a group of about 25 high school students from around the state that meet with the Foundation every year and develop projects. Last year the project was to find 28 voices of youth conservation voices.

Diaz said, “These young people in high school, they learn how to lead. Not just lead in environment, but lead in their lives.”

Every year, the Everglades Foundation holds a Teacher Symposium, where teachers from across the state meet to discuss the environment.

Diaz said, “We just really have a lot of fun. We implement new lessons and strategies. We hear from teachers and the great work that they’re doing and how they use this program and expand it in their schools and they really just get ready and excited for the next school year.”

The Everglades Family Night series is a new program that began during COVID where families can log in together and learn how to start a conversation about the environment. It will be held about two to four times a year.

Diaz said, “It’s just an opportunity to have conversations at the dinner table.”

For more information on the Everglades Literacy Program, click here: