Making Progress for Planning for ELC's Future
We are delighted to announce the completion of our 10-year Master Plan, which serves as the road map for improvement and expansion of our nature-based programs and visitor experiences across campus, with special focus on increasing nature access for all those in our community.
Our Master Plan was developed over the past year and involved reviewing and combining several years of significant self-assessment, community research, and input that began in 2015 with ELC’s participation in our first-ever external review through the federally-funded American Alliance of Museums’ Museum Assessment Program focused on Community Engagement.
The Master Plan’s purpose is to ensure all aspects of our Indian River Lagoon island-based property support our mission – to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being – and ensure we serve target audiences in a distinctive and exemplary fashion while also improving our fiscal sustainability as a cultural institution far into the future. ELC’s location, our unwavering commitment to blending environmental education, science, and human and environmental health, and our ability to offer authentic and diverse nature experiences for all ages represent a few of our regional competitive advantages.
By building our distinctiveness through providing authentic native Florida and FL Friendly experiences relevant to daily life, sharing key iconic features on the Lagoon, providing high quality design and exceptional visitor experiences, our new master plan honors ELC’s original purpose and mission, diversifies our audience, and strengthens our bottom line.
ELC’s board, staff and volunteers worked closely with a professional master planning team led by nationally-acclaimed landscape architect firm Terra Design Studios of Pittsburgh, a firm that also developed the master plans for organizations including the Jacksonville Zoo and Naples Botanic Gardens. The complete professional master planning team included:
Key new campus features include an iconic green building designed interpretive center; water-wise display garden; canopy walk; native plant gallery; family nature play zone; native butterfly screen house; pollinator garden, and more. The plan's goal is to have spatial balance between natural and human-made elements and continue to provide for nature-based education, recreation and solace.
As with all full campus master plans, ELC’s plan will be implemented in phases and is expected to involve multiple fundraising campaigns over the next 10 years, with the timing of each phase contingent on appropriate community support and fundraising successes. We are now working to confirm which elements will be included in the first phase of implementation and are in the preliminary discussion stages with the county planning department for appropriate next steps.
Stay tuned for more updates. We are excited to continue our steps forward in this process for ELC’s future as we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our community.
Saturday, September 15th from 9 am to 1 pm National Estuaries Day Celebration at the Environmental Learning Center!
For over 30 years, conservation organizations around the nation have celebrated National Estuaries Week, highlighting the many ways we benefit from healthy, thriving coastal ecosystems. The start of National Estuaries Week happens to fall on September 15th, which is also International Coastal Cleanup Day this year, making it a fantastic opportunity to learn more about estuaries while also being the perfect excuse to spend time out on our local Indian River Lagoon to help clean our community!
The ELC will start the day with a free canoe clean-up trip along the lagoon, open to the public from 8:00-9:00am followed by loads of fun and interactive activities for all ages from 9:00-1:00pm (admission free to those who participate in the cleanup). The ELC’s celebration will include pond dip-netting, seine-netting in the lagoon, canoe quick trips, access to our interactive museum & touch tank, and conservation activity booths from our partners including Brevard Zoo, FAU Harbor Branch, Pelican Island Audubon Society, Plastic Free Florida, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Disney Vero Beach Resort, and with special thanks to our sponsor, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuaries Program.
So come on out to the ELC to help us tidy up our beloved coast, learn more about environmental conservation, and enjoy fun education activities for the whole family on September 15th! For more information, click here.
Summer High School and College Internship program is a great success!
We successfully grew our paid High School and College Internship program in partnership with the Indian River Land Trust and the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves Office to ten students during the summer of 2018. This 6-week program supports comprehensive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning with a focus on the ecology of the Indian River Lagoon and surrounding ecosystems, ecological field and landscape maintenance techniques, interpretive and teaching practice, and aquarist and guest service skills. Led by Sarah Rhodes-Ondi, MS, ELC Environmental Educator – Youth and Intern Specialist, and supported by ELC staff, volunteers and other, the interns built their knowledge, work experience, collaborative teamwork, leadership, scientific communication and social/emotional skills and confidence. This summer we welcomed Vero Beach High School students, Sebastian River High School students and college students from the University of Central Florida and Emory University. Thank you to Quail Valley Charities, United Way of Indian River County and Grand Harbor Community Outreach for their support in funding these students. Our High School interns: Sanae Aaron, Juliette Dalessandro, Enrique Jaramillo, Kayla Moore, Justin Newman, Venna Passamanfe, Jaquan Pledger and Blake Strawter. Our college interns: Grace Harris and Paula Manrique.
Welcome Lesley, our new Director of Philanthropy!
We are very excited to share that Lesley Lichko has joined the ELC as our new Director of Philanthropy!
Lesley has 20 years' experience in fundraising and nonprofit management in higher education, conservation and the arts, for organizations including Bates College, Husson University, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. She has taught graduate courses in fundraising, nonprofit management, and ethics in nonprofits the last several years in Husson University’s MBA program.
Lesley also holds two master’s of science degrees, both from the University of Maine: one in Ecology & Environmental Science and one in Forest Resource Economics--her research studies included functional assessments of constructed vernal pools and economic valuation of conservation lands. Lesley is deeply passionate not only for conservation and education, but for creating access to therapeutic and empowering nature experiences for people who need it most. Did we mention she also is an avid scuba diver?
Please join us in welcoming Lesley! She will be in the office full-time on September 17th and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 772-589-5050 x103!
Edible & Medicinal Immersion Plant Classes & Natural Honeys, Syrups, Tinctures and Liniments-Making Classes with Guest Naturalist, Michael Ball
Would you like to become more in touch with the natural world as you learn to forage and gain knowledge about the edible and medicinal properties of wild plants? ELC Guest Naturalist, Michael Ball, is an edible and medicinal plant identification expert in Florida, who will be hosting immersion plant walks at the ELC on the second Saturday of each month throughout December, from 9:00am - 11:00am.
Michael will also be offering other classes at the ELC this fall including a Natural Syrups and Honeys-Making class where students will prepare and take home their own herbal health products to help stay well through cold and flu season, and a Tinctures and Liniments-Making class in which students will prepare their own natural products that support everything from mood enhancement and relaxation to relief from sore muscles and arthritis.
For more information or to register for a class, please click this link for the Plant Immersion Class and click here for the Syrups & Honeys class. Check our website often as we'll continue to add classes.
It was a great Summer for Camps, Literacy on the Lagoon, and STEAM Mentorship Program for Middle School Girls
This summer was a hot one, but that didn’t stop the ELC education staff from delivering fun and meaningful programs to local and visiting youth! This year our annual summer programs served hundreds of kindergarten through 8th graders throughout the months of June and July in exciting educational activities such as pond dip-netting, canoeing, nature scavenger hunts, pontoon boat rides, and spoil island exploration!
New this year, we incorporated even more elements of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) with Home Depot building projects, soundscape ecology activities, and constructing endangered beach mouse traps with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Thanks to the ELC Maggie Bowman Scholarship Fund, approximately one fifth of all campers were awarded scholarship funding based on financial need, including a portion coming to us through a collaborative effort with the Homeless Children’s Foundation.
Literacy on the Lagoon, a collaborative effort between the ELC, the Learning Alliance and the School District of Indian River County, is another summer program that helped entering 3rd graders begin to identify themselves as scientists through fun, hands-on STEAM outdoor activities that encouraged improved literary skills and knowledge of the local ecosystem.
The Summer STEAM Mentorship Program for at-risk Middle School Girls in partnership with the American Association of University Women - Vero Beach Chapter, Boys and Girls Club of Indian River County and with the support of Quail Valley Charities, reached eighteen young women this summer. These young women were mentored for ten days by women professionals working in STEAM fields to explore marine ecology, soundscape ecology, marine technology and engineering.
New ELC GreenTeen! Program
The ELC’s GreenTeen! volunteer program launched this summer with flying colors! This 10 month program was specially designed to fit our busy teens’ schedules, and offers them special opportunities to earn community service hours for school, learn all about conservation and the local ecosystem, and have fun while helping educate ELC campers and visitors. In just a few short months, our 24 GreenTeen!s have already helped guide and teach summer day camps, participated in community waterway cleanups, volunteered at the touch tank, participated in ELC special events, and attended EcoTalks and educational programs offered at the ELC. Our GreenTeen!s are leading the way to a cleaner, greener future in our community and beyond!
ELC hosting MRC's Lagoon Health Report September 18th
Tuesday, September 18th at 6:00pm, the ELC is hosting Marine Resources Council (MRC) to present the first ever IRL Health Update report, led by MRC, examining 20 years of Indian River Lagoon water quality data. Dr. Leesa Souto, Executive Director of MRC, will present on the key indicators and targets of lagoon health and how the water conditions have negatively changed over time. Each attendee will be given a copy of the report to use for education and advocacy for the well-being of the lagoon. Together we can bring the lagoon back to health! Click here for more information and to register for the event.
NEW Lagoon Academy launched this Summer
The ELC is now welcoming children ages 9 through 14 (approximate grades 4th – 8th) to come enjoy ecological adventures filled with fun and learning in our newest education program, Lagoon Academy! Lagoon Academy is held on the last Monday of every month from 10:00am – 12:00pm and is geared toward homeschool and school-attending children alike.
Each month, our Lagoon Academy scholars enjoy different STEAM oriented, hands-on educational activities, such as seine-netting in the lagoon where students collect and record data on species abundance and diversity using collection datasheets compiled for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pond dip-netting in which students learn the differences between fresh and salt water species and evaluate habitat health by conducting water quality sampling and testing, and even learning to use high-tech soundscape ecology devices to listen, record, and analyze underwater and terrestrial sounds, plus MUCH more. Lagoon Academy is $25 per student, with package deals available.
Mark your calendar for these events!
It's a busy Fall and Winter at the ELC and we want to see you on our campus for these fun, nature inspired events!
Click on each of these events to find out more information:
National Estuaries & International Coastal Cleanup Day Celebration. Saturday, September 15th 9:00am - 1:00pm with lagoon canoe clean-up from 8:00am - 9:00am.
Half-Haunted Halloween, Friday, October 26th, 5:00 - 8:00pm
Volunteer Open House, Thursday, December 6th, 3:30 - 5:00pm
WinterGreen Lights, Thursday - Sunday, December 27th - 30th
Sunset Holiday Lights Canoe Trips, December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, and 29th, 5:00 - 6:00pm
Annual Fundraising Gala, Saturday, January 12th, 6:00 - 11:00pm at the Moorings
Great Green Events: Have your family gatherings & corporate events on our lagoon island
Celebrate the holidays, a birthday, wedding, anniversary, or other special occasion during the evening or during the day on our beautiful island campus. Need fun activities to do during your event? The ELC has canoes, guided nature walks, a pontoon boat, miles of boardwalks through the mangroves, large open grassy areas and fun activities all ready for your visit.
We have a variety of indoor and outdoor areas to choose from! For presentations and corporate retreats, we have audio visual equipment with on-site support, flip charts and white board, menu selections for breakfast, lunch or all-day refreshments, hospitality service for set up and clearing, and team building activities. And our presentation rooms are surrounded with floor to ceiling windows overlooking mangrove forests for a beautiful view.
Make your next get together or corporate retreat a beautiful, experience surrounded by nature! Contact Margaret at email@example.com or 772-589-5050 x105 for more information.
Memberships, Annual Fund, Sponsorships, Underwriting, grants and Events!
Isn’t it wonderful that there are so many ways to contribute to all of the many programs and activities that are created and run here at ELC! The other great thing is you don’t have to choose just one avenue for giving you can participate in one, two, three or all six avenues!
The majority of ELC’s annual operating funds come from charitable donations. Every gift is meaningful to us and very much appreciated. We look forward to another amazing year full of dynamic programming and fun, educational events for all ages! From all of the staff and board at ELC, Thank You for your past gifts and Thank You in advance for your continued support!
Happy Fall from all of us at the Environmental Learning Center. We look forward to seeing you on campus and at our events!
From the Desk of the Executive Director:
Molly Steinwald, MS
With Guidance and Support from our:
ELC BOARD OF DIRECTORS
John L. Daniels
Alex MacWilliam IV
Colleen T. Ryan
George P. Bunnell
(1924 – 2005)
ELC FOUNDATION BOARD
William H. Friesell
John D. Lowenberg, Sr.
Alma Lee Loy
John D. Orcutt, Jr.
Donald C. Proctor
Gregory W. Smith
Helen E. Stone
Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being.
The Environmental Learning Center is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 . Your admission, memberships & donations are important to continuing our mission. Please join or give today!
Tuesday - Friday: 10 am - 4 pm
Saturday: 9 am - 4 pm
Sunday: 1 pm - 4 pm
Phone: (772) 589-5050
ELC is a Smoke-Free campus.
Service Dogs only please.
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255 Live Oak Drive, Vero Beach, FL 32963.
Located at the western base of the Wabasso Bridge on the 510 Causeway.