For more than 20 years, Restore America’s Estuaries’ member Tampa Bay Watch has been engaging local students and teachers through their Bay Grasses in Classes Program (BGIC) program. BGIC gives students the opportunity to learn about the Tampa Bay estuary and the importance of native plants to the estuarine ecosystem by growing and maintaining on-campus nurseries. The Tampa Bay region ranks as one of the top ten areas in the world vulnerable to sea level rise; over the last year, the BGIC program has worked to develop field and in-classroom activities to educate students not only about their local estuary, but also about the potential impacts of climate change on coastal habitats.
The program began diversifying the species grown in on-campus nurseries, allowing Tampa Bay Watch to adapt to changing restoration priorities. This new approach allows them to leverage existing partnerships and outreach opportunities previously established within the schools. Student and community engagement will increase environmental stewardship, while also providing educational opportunities about the growing importance of coastal resilience.
Through the ScottsMiracle-Gro Water Positive Partners program, RAE provided Tampa Bay Watch with the resources to continue this important program in 2018. To date, BGIC has partnered with 15 schools and 19 nurseries. Together they’ve restored 172 acres of wetland habitat, planted nearly 350,000 plugs of school-grown plants, and directly engaged over 82,000 students.
By directly engaging youth in the restoration of their local estuary, Bay Grasses in Classes is facilitating immediate restoration results while developing environmental stewards to protect the long-term health of Tampa Bay.
Check out our 2018 Accomplishments Report to learn more about the Impact of the RAE Alliance.
Melinda Spall is an environmental specialist with Tampa Bay Watch.