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Mobile outreach vehicle will make stop at Shell Museum

By Staff | Aug 5, 2015

WaterVentures Florida’s Learning Lab, a 53-foot semi trailer will stop on Sanibel at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Thursday, Aug. 20. PHOTO PROVIDED

A 53-foot semi trailer will roll into the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum parking lot later this month to provide a hands-on opportunity for kids to learn about water conservation, Florida freshwater systems and becoming responsible stewards.

Lee County Day, featuring WaterVentures Florida’s Learning Lab, will be held at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Rd.

AV Outreach Administrative Manager Helen Scott said the WaterVentures Florida’s Learning Lab began traveling Florida roadways in January 2013. The semi has been modified both inside and out to provide museum quality exhibits. Two full-time educators, an intern and a driver will make more than 170 stops at schools, fairs and communities during the 2015-2016 school year.

“Seeing it in person . . . it’s amazing that we were able to do this and bring this vision to life,” Scott said of the semi.

The learning lab is an extension of the 525-acre privately owned sanctuary, Crystal Springs Preserve, which is located approximately 15 miles northeast of Tampa.

“Crystal Springs is a very unique site that allows students to experience fresh water habitat . . . a pocket of paradise because it is an unusual, protected piece of land on fresh water resources that supplies the City of Tampa with drinking water,” she said.

Scott said they began running an educational center 10 years ago that offers a directive learning experience through environmental education while on the preserve. About 50,000 people a year visit the center.

“Our goal is to reach others and share the message of water conservation, Florida freshwater system, responsible stewardship and recycling,” Scott said.

When entering the mobile museum, individuals will have the opportunity to view a limestone rock while looking through a spring hole.

One side of the semi, running the entire length of the truck features a diorama that takes visitors through exhibits of animals, as well as information on the wildlife and the ecosystem.

Other hands-on exhibits include information about aquifers, recycling, global water, watershed table and hydrology and topography of Florida.

The mobile learning lab, Scott said is a lot of fun for the kids.

“It’s meant to be exciting,” she said.

The exhibits she said are meant to create memories, while heightening excitement for Florida, conservation and protection of natural resources.

“We couldn’t let summer go by without doing something special and really fun for our Lee County friends and neighbors – especially the kids,” Executive Director of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Dorrie Hipschman said. “I’m eager to share the WaterVentures’ Mobile Science Lab – what a great way to learn to appreciate, value and protect Florida’s precious water resources. LCEC’s partnership helps make it all happen. We’re glad that they care as much about our local environment as we do”

Due to the partnership, adult admission will be half-off for Lee County residents and free for kids accompanied by a paid adult during Lee County Day at the Shell Museum.

The partnership with LCEC was made possible through the Environmental Funding Award, an application organizations can fill out if they are located within LCEC service territory, have a project or program related to the environment and utility industry, as well as showing the need for additional funds.

LCEC Senior Public Relations Specialist Laura Puerto said the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s Environmental Funding Award application certainly met the requirements.

“LCEC is proud to support events like Lee County Day, which serve to ignite a passion for learning in our local youth,” she said. “Any event that focuses on education and the environment is they type of event that LCEC wants to support. We are proud to have the opportunity to sponsor this first-time event and hope it turns into an annual affair.”

Puerto said she is excited to attend Lee County Day with her son Landon.

“He will surely love all the fun activities that this special day has to offer,” she said.

For more information about Lee County Day, call the Shell Museum at (239) 395-2233.

For more information about WaterVentures Florida’s Learning Lab, visit www.waterventures.us.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.