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Refuge, school district collaboration on student trips

By REFUGE / DDWS - | Mar 10, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Students learn first-hand about nature on field trips to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

In February, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge learned that a collaboration with the Lee County School District for field trips to the refuge was approved and finalized.

The district will designate an environmental teacher to work with the refuge’s Education Team to schedule class field trips to Sanibel during the school year. The DDWS will contribute to the teacher’s salary, and the collaboration will supplant a former busing program wholly financed by the DDWS.

The busing firm that the DDWS previously worked with went out of business in 2019, and the refuge’s team has been working with the school district since that time to come up with a creative solution.

“Lee County now gets a great qualified teacher for its programs for half of what it would cost without our investment,” DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller said. “These field trips will come from Lee County schools that are within easy driving distance of the refuge to allow adequate time to truly experience the refuge. Our new Wildlife on Wheels mobile urban classroom focuses on those schools that could never make it for a field trip due to the time and distance involved.”

“We are so excited that all of our negotiations and planning panned out for this wonderful partnership,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, who led the efforts, said. “It’s a win-win, especially for the kids, and a prime example of how the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Society leverages support to make good things happen. A special thanks to Susie Hassett, the district’s environmental education resource teacher, for her important role in making this happen.”

To support the partnership, contact Lynnae Messina at messina@dingdarlingsociety.org or 239-472-1100 ext. 233.