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Pinellas teachers invited to see what Nature in the Classroom offers

LARGO — One owned a nursery school in Watertown, Conn. The other is a former science teacher from New Orleans.

Together, Pat Edmond and Peggy Mann are known as the "traveling naturalists" of the Friends of Largo Nature Parks.

Through their program, Nature in the Classroom, the pair aims to fulfill the mission of getting Pinellas County students in touch with Mother Nature.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Edmond and Mann will present "Nature in the Classroom: A Teacher Open House'' at the George C. McGough Nature Park. Pinellas teachers can learn what the outreach program offers.

The Friends of Largo Nature Parks is a group of 15 volunteers who support the city's parks and environmental education. It was started last year when the city discussed closing the nature center at McGough Park because of budget cuts. The nature center is still open, although Largo is considering eliminating some of its programs.

"We formed a group and started working with city leaders, looking at how to improve revenue-vs.-expenditure issues," said Edmond, 64. "While we were at it, we launched what we called the Nature in the Classroom Initiative.''

The program offers teachers and their students a number of choices:

• A wildlife encounter with the nature center's animals, snakes and reptiles.

• A guided nature hike through the schoolyard, identifying plants and animals.

• For older students, an interactive program on watersheds, estuaries and coastal systems.

Edmond, president for the Friends of Largo Nature Parks, has been working with students since she became a Florida master naturalist six years ago.

Mann, a former elementary school science teacher, is the group's secretary. She moved here from Louisiana in 2009.

"You go to other places, and you barely have a park anymore, and you come here to Largo, and the parks are so beautiful and peaceful,'' said Mann, 57.

No matter how lean a family's finances, it's important to keep children engaged with nature and science, Mann said. She hopes her volunteering helps both children and adults recognize the area's natural treasures.

Here are four components of Nature in the Classroom that the naturalists will demonstrate Saturday:

• Using your senses (kindergarten through fifth grade): Naturalists lead students on an exploration of the outdoors, using sight, smell, hearing and touch. Wildlife encounters are guaranteed, along with lessons on ethics, safety, habitats and survival methods.

• Fiddler crab study (K-12): Students will study live fiddler crabs in their mud burrows and in containers that allow close, safe examination. They'll learn about feeding habits, predators, food web position, and the ethics of capture and release.

• Fluid Earth (grades 4-12): Students will learn about watersheds, estuaries and coastal systems. The naturalists will focus on environmental damage and prevention.

• Oceans of trash (K-12): Students will learn about the sources of marine debris and its environmental impact, prevention and cleanup.

Piper Castillo can be reached at pcastillo@sptimes.com.

IF YOU GO

Nature in the Classroom

The Teacher Open House will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at McGough Nature Center, 11901 146th St. N, Largo. The event is free, but donations will be accepted. For information, call Pat Edmond at (727) 593-1796.

Pinellas teachers invited to see what Nature in the Classroom offers 03/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 4:23pm]
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