“We really want to inspire the next generation develop love and appreciation on how to take care of the water."

Third grade students from Destin Elementary finally had the chance Friday to plant the smooth cordgrasses they spend all year growing during a field trip to Baytowne Marina at Sandestin.

Through the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s Grasses in Classes Program, students developed an interest in the local environment by growing shoreline grasses at their school. After wrapping up a year-long restoration project, they were able to get hands-on experience and explore the habitat they learned about the Choctawhatchee Bay.

“We really want to inspire the next generation develop love and appreciation on how to take care of the water,” said Brittany Tate, CBA’s education director.

CBA provided teachers with the equipment and material needed to grow shoreline grasses and maintain a salt marsh nursery. With the help from AmeriCorps Northwest Florida Environment Steward program, students also participated in monthly activities that focused on the relationship between shoreline grasses and the health of the bay.

“Each lesson was aligned and correlated to meet Florida’s science standards,” said Tate. “It just makes it beneficial for the students and the teachers as well.”

About 2,300 students and 22 elementary schools from Walton and Okaloosa counties participated in the program. Destin Elementary had about 200 third graders participate this year.

“Destin Elementary is one of biggest classes we have from both counties,” she said.

Third grade math and science teacher Tish Edmonsond said it’s very important for her students to learn about the bay that surrounds them and the animals that live in the grassy areas.

“They learned about the different ways shoreline grasses can help clean the water and give animals a place to call home,” said Edmonsond, who helped organize the program and field trip.

Students were divided into groups and rotated through stations, which recapped all the lessons learned in the program.

“This program taught us how to take care of our environment and how to give back,” said 9-year-old Evelyn Jowers.

Jowers, who is in Edmonsond’s class, said she really enjoyed learning and working on measuring the salinity in seawater.

“I always wanted to be a marine biologist when I grow up,” she said.