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Wildlife society awarding grants to science classes

By Staff | Aug 28, 2009

Science classes in Lee County are eligible to receive one of five $1,000 grants from the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.
The society, located on Sanibel Island, has been providing educators with the grants for the past four years to be used in the classroom for materials or books, or on education-related field trips or projects.
Any school in Lee County can submit a grant proposal to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society by Oct. 31 and be in the running for one of the grants.
The society will award the grants in December, and the classroom projects or purchases should be complete by May.
Doris Hardy, environment education chair, said the society wants to help fund environmental education.
“With environmental education funding being cut throughout the school district, teachers and students are so grateful to receive our grants to fund special projects,” she said.
Because of budget shortfalls over the last two years, the school district has cut some of its science-related field trips. Grants procured by the district may offset the costs of taking students to a number of refuges.
“This is a very generous offer and an attempt on their part to try to hold on to some field experiences for some schools,” said Rick Tully, district coordinator of Science and Environmental Education.
Tully said the amount of field trips in the 2009-10 school year will be the same from the year before.
“We are anticipating to be on par with last year, but last year was much reduced from previous years,” he said. “Over the span of 10 years we have undergone a tremendous reduction in terms of environmental education field trips.”
Much of the reason centers around staffing and classroom responsibilities, Tully said, but the science department is working to increase the number of trips.
“We are trying to build it back up this year,” he said. “We have several, different large grant proposals out and are hoping to hire back staff that we had to let go.”
Increasing the amount of science-related field trips or supplies is more important than ever because the state now tests students on the FCAT Science exam.
This year 31 percent of students in Lee County scored a 3 — a passing grade — or above on the FCAT Science.
In their grant proposals, schools have to outline their needs and why the project is important for environmental education. The society also wants to know how the project will raise awareness for the refuge.
For more information about the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, visit: www.dingdarlingsociety.org.