Environmental Learning Center

Environmental Learning Center

August 2023 Message from Executive Director, Barb Schlitt Ford


Click here to read the August Newsletter

It’s been an exciting June/July here at your Environmental Learning Center! We have served over 600 youth through our summer programs which include:

  • Lagoon Adventures weekly camps (ages 6-13)
  • Teen STEAM Immersion Programs (two 3-day work shops)
  • Literacy on the Lagoon (6 weeks)
  • Youth Environmental Leaders Corps Teen Group (twice monthly)
  • Junior Counselors
  • High school and college interns
  • Little Wonders preschool nature play group (4 sessions/month)
  • Teen volunteers
  • Visiting youth groups

Many scholarships were provided to make sure all that wanted to attend were able.

One really cool highlight this past week was our teen group trip to Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge (ACWR) (Bonsteel Park) where we witnessed (up close!) a 250 pound loggerhead turtle laying her eggs, and maybe 8 green turtles laying their eggs (from a distance), plus about 20 hatchlings making their way to their ocean home. We didn’t get home until after midnight, but it was so worth it! A night none of us will ever forget. Did you know that ACWR is the world’s top nesting spot for loggerheads and the nation’s top spot for green turtle nesting? An incredible 30,000 nests this season so far on that 20 mile strip of beach alone (Brevard and IRC).

While we won’t know for a decade or so how many of these youth have been inspired to go into environmental careers, we know from our 35 years of past experience that we have made a lasting impression on these developing minds and that they value their connection to this amazing, natural world around us more as a result of their experiences with the ELC. And that is what we are all about!

We have also hosted several big regional conferences plus community meetings and summer socials the past two months. We are glad that the word is getting out about what a perfect choice ELC is for your next gathering.

The other big news this summer is that our pontoon dock rebuild is finally underway after five years of planning and raising funds. This dock is approximately 30 years old and has served us well, but the time had come to replace it. The project will be complete by the end of 2023. We will have a ribbon-cutting at a future date. We wish to thank the Malamets, the Reiters, Florida Inland Navigation District and John’s Island Foundation, as well as many individual donors for helping make this need a reality. We are grateful to Indian River County (Parks and Conservation), Coastal Tech, and Indian River Docks for shepherding this project for the benefit of our community. Our pontoon Eco Tours to Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge, the Spoil Islands, the Sebastian Inlet, and along the St. Sebastian River are an integral part of our environmental education programs on the IR Lagoon. Our trips continue to run during the construction out of Jones Pier on Jungle Trail. (If you haven’t checked out this fantastic restored county conservation area, you definitely should!)

We are excited for our WinterGreen Night Lights nature holiday festival six nights in December. For many, this is the event that really gets them in the festive mood for the season with our signature magical canoe tours through the lit mangrove tunnels. We do all the work for you! Enjoy an enchantingly decorated campus, entertainment on our pavilion stage including Riverside Theatre’s “Finding Nemo” performance, crafts, bonfire and s’mores. We have other nights in December that are still available for you to host your family or work holiday party, so contact Bookings@Discoverelc.org to reserve your date.

We are also really looking forward to our annual fundraiser, Mangroves and Moonlight, this year with a Cuban flair. Save the date February 3 for this not to be missed evening of Cuban food, Mambos, Mimosas and More. We rely on the funds raised from this event, so we do hope you will join us.

We have a full art exhibits calendar and social schedule from now through May 2024 so save those dates (see newsletter).

It’s been a hot 🥵 summer. There’s no denying that it’s hotter than usual (and some unpredictable and intense storms to boot). Thanks for being part of the ELC so together we can learn what we can each be doing to help protect and restore the health of our natural resources.

Thank you to our donors, members, visitors, volunteers and sponsors for your year-round support. You help make all of this possible. We are open to the public 7 days a week and we hope to see you soon.

Yours In Service,