Local students establish salt marsh nurseries at schools in Okaloosa and Walton County

Special to The Log

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance of Northwest Florida State College in partnership with AmeriCorps program is implementing 13 Grasses in Classes Programs throughout Okaloosa and Walton Counties. On Oct. 1, CBA and AmeriCorps will kick off the 2012-2013 Grasses in Classes program by establishing saltmarsh nurseries with 3rd and 5th graders.

CBA’s Grasses in Classes program is a hands-on, environmental education project that gives students a direct role in the restoration of Choctawhatchee Bay. CBA provides teachers in Okaloosa and Walton Counties the equipment and materials required to grow shoreline grasses at their schools. In addition to maintaining salt marsh nurseries, students participate in monthly activities administered by the CBA/AmeriCorps staff. Each lesson is correlated to meet Florida’s Sunshine State Science Standards, while focusing on how shoreline grasses help prevent erosion and provide critical habitat.

Throughout the month of October, students will participate in their first lesson, which includes the planting and establishment of the salt marsh nurseries. While planting the smooth cordgrass, students learn how salt marsh plants help sustain the health of the Choctawhatchee Bay. At the end of the year-long program, students will travel to a restoration site along the Choctawhatchee Bay to transplant their matured smooth cordgrass.

“It is great to see students develop an interest in not only science, but in their local environment,” said Brittany Tate, education coordinator for CBA. “Through Grasses in Classes, students become an active part of the Choctawhatchee Bay watershed.”

CBA and AmeriCorps will work with 10 elementary schools in Okaloosa County and three elementary schools in Walton County, reaching close to 1,500 students. Through this program, CBA hopes to develop young water stewards, who from a young age become aware of their local ecosystems.