Participants from across Florida got to spend 2 days and 3 nights hiking 33 miles through the Everglades in some of the most iconic ecosystems of South Florida.
The Everglades Foundation’s education team was honored to sponsor Everglades Champion School teachers at Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s recent, fourth annual Hike2O Challenge. The 3-day, 2-night, 33-mile backcountry hike guided participants through some of the most iconic ecosystems of South Florida.
Led by trail experts from the Florida Trail Association’s Loxahatchee Chapter and Loggerhead Marinelife Center staff biologists, participants hiked along the Lake to Ocean Hiking Trail connecting Lake Okeechobee in the west to the Atlantic Ocean at Hobe Sound. They also experienced nightly “conservation conversations” about Florida’s native flora and fauna, with a focus on the importance of water in our lives.
The Foundation’s education team sponsored three teachers from across the state who are actively working in their schools to teach students about the Everglades.
“We saw a couple of gopher tortoises, sandhill cranes, lots of woodpeckers, hawks, a corn snake, frogs, and a piglet…This trip has been a springboard to realizing just how important it is to be outside and upfront in nature. I am taking all that I experienced to my students. The Everglades and its watershed are vital, and we need to get more students engaged with all the facets of the ecosystem,” said Pamela Owens from Zellwood Elementary in Orange County, a 5-year Everglades Champion School.
The Hike2O Challenge is no easy undertaking; campsites are primitive and trail conditions and weather can make the hike particularly challenging. Shanna Lillis, from The Conservatory School in Palm Beach, had “a magnificent experience” and plans “to complete the other half of the trail next year!”
Lindsey Wuest, from A.D. Henderson & FAU High School in Palm Beach County, also participated in the hike to gain a deeper understanding of the Everglades to share with her students. Through this experience, participating teachers will be able to continue to make Everglades conservation a core part of their school’s culture while creating lifelong Everglades learners.
Visit www.evergladesliteracy.org/champions to learn more about the Everglades Champion School program and see how you can get involved.