When Loggerhead Marinelife Center founder Eleanor Fletcher began teaching children about the importance of sea turtle and ocean conservation from an old home in Loggerhead Park, little did she know her passion for teaching would forever impact the way LMC viewed education. After all, without knowing just how essential our world oceans are, how could one truly make a difference?
Now that LMC offers more than 30 distinctive programs to locals and visitors, the education department is stronger than ever, and the opportunity to teach students – the next generation of ocean conservationists – about protecting the environment is what keeps the department going.
Promoting a passion for science
“My main goal is quite simply to help people fall in love with the ocean,” says Kerri Allen, LMC’s education manager. “We educate individuals of all ages, backgrounds and knowledge levels to make informed decisions about the ocean and coastal environment. In Jacques Cousteau’s words, ‘people protect what they love.’ But no one can protect an ocean they do not know and understand.”
It’s Allen’s hope that breaking barriers and providing everyone an equal opportunity to learn about local ecosystems will help create life-long stewards of the coastal environment.
Of course, it’s not always easy. There are challenges, too, as Allen points out the importance of acknowledging the wide variety of worldviews and backgrounds – and presenting accurate, unbiased information in LMC’s programs.
“In all of our programming, we work very hard to ensure quality through authentic experiences that educate our guests in marine science, while also providing an experience that is fun,” she says.
There’s also the daily goals of living out the practices LMC upholds – such as reducing single-use plastic waste.
“Knowledge truly is power,” says Allen. “By working together, we have the power to change the world! But, in order to teach this idea of daily conservation, I must live it. Like all members of my department, I constantly evaluate my lifestyle and habits to make sure I practice what I preach.”
Inspiring future leaders
Because LMC is situated on one of the most densely populated sea turtle nesting beaches on the planet, visitors come near and far to see the turtles, as well as the mangroves, sea grasses and coral reefs in which they live.
“By educating local students, we have the opportunity to impact the next generation of scientists, teachers, policymakers and professionals, all of which will inherit the environmental problems facing us today,” says Allen.
And it’s that next generation of ocean leaders that will make a difference, Allen believes, as well as a passion for science.
“I recently received an e-mail from a homeschool parent thanking me for the program she had taken her two children to,” says Allen. “She said that she was questioning her [recent] decision to homeschool, and was having a hard time getting her children to listen and focus on the content. After the program at LMC, she said her children were excited to learn, and willing to do whatever she asked. By showing them just how exciting science could be, we helped foster engaged students who were ready to learn – and that makes all the difference.”
We think Eleanor Fletcher would be proud.