Explore Florida Outdoors

11/20/2009  |  LILLIANM SPENCER
outdoor adventures

Now is a great time to enjoy many educational outdoor activities in the Sunshine State.With cooler temperatures in most states, outdoor activities in Florida abound for all ages. Teachers and students can find outdoor adventures that make learning fun and exciting throughout Florida. Following are destinations and activities to help you explore Florida outdoors!
The future of our environment depends upon our children and their knowledge of our environment. Educational Wildlife Encounter Programs help guide children to understand their own place in the natural world and develop appreciation of the animals that share it.


Sanibel Sea School

Learning about the sea is fun for students and adults at the Sanibel Sea School. The school teaches children and adults about the marine ecosystems of Sanibel and Captiva islands in southwest Florida. Programs include marine ecosystems, animals, people, plants, gain an intimate perspective of the ocean, its inhabitants and the tightly woven fabric of the global environment. Sanibel Sea School is located at 414 Lagoon Drive, Sanibel FL 33957. For more information call: (239) 472-8585 or visit www.sanibelseaschool.com.

The Butterfly Estates

Located in the River District of downtown Fort Myers, visitors surround themselves with thousands of butterflies at this new eco-attraction. The venue includes a botanical garden and butterfly habitat with cascading waterfalls, lush tropical nectar plants and butterflies that delight guests with their astounding beauty.

For more information call 239-6902359 or visit www.thebutterflyestates. com.

Around the Bend Nature Tours

Around the Bend Nature Tours is a leading provider of educational adventures in Southwest Florida. They have been providing standards-based field studies for 10 years through a collaboration with local school districts and estuary programs. A fun, hands-on curricula is offered. Activities include a simulated archeological dig; dip netting in the grass flats, interaction with Native American technology and more! Around the Bend Nature Tours was organized as a sole proprietorship eco-heritage tour company in March 1999, offering a taste of the REAL Florida: outdoor tours, classes, and field trips — for groups of all ages — in parks and on the waterways of Manatee County on southern Tampa Bay. Try “Eating History” at a NativeAmerican temple mound,“Spud-Busting” to eradicate exotic plants, or “Critter Catching” in the Manatee River or Sarasota Bay.

One field trip tour is off the eastern tip of the Bradenton coast, just off Terra Ceia Bay, at Emerson Point Preserve, where a lacework of winding trails and wooden boardwalk lets visitors take in the landscape of this 350-acre state park at their own pace. This diverse nature preserve is home to numerous ecosystems, including salt marshes, beaches, lagoons, grass flats, mangrove swamps, hardwood hammocks and semi-upland wooded areas. The paths make it easy to discover and appreciate the park on foot, but visitors can also bike, fish or canoe their way through.

Other educational field trips with ecotourism elements are listed in complete detail at http://www.aroundbend.com/discover/fieldtrips.php.

For more information about Around the Bend Nature Tours and Gulf Island information visit www.aroundbend.com and www. floridasgulfislands.com.


Central Florida Zoo

At the Central Florida Zoo, students can experience a living classroom by exploring wild opportunities in learning. A wide range of subject areas, targeting specific grades, are covered through the zoo’s vast resources. The zoo offers many programs that directly compliment the Florida Sunshine State Standards requirements.

The zoo is serious about making education fun! Students can explore the many ways the zoo can incorporate hands-on teaching and critical thinking exercises into meaningful learning experiences. Encounter a new breed of education at the Central Florida Zoo!

In addition to school field trips, the zoo offers numerous educational programs:

  • Tours: Planet Safari, Endangered Species, and more
  • Animal Encounters:Animals Have Class,Wings of America, and more
  • Two to the Zoo (2nd grade): Second graders are ‘hired’ as zoo keepers to see what it takes to run the zoo and keep the animals safe
  • Curric-Zoo-lum (3rd grade):The Zoo offers 3rd graders this program with rotational learning stations to learn many aspects of the Zoo
  • ZooLab (4th and 5th grade): Older elementary students get the chance to experience the behind-the-scenes, hands on, living classroom of the Zoo
  • Zooventure (any grade): Custom-design the school’s program to include the elements of the ZOO of your choice; and
  • Homeschool: Home-school ZOOventure Series is offered on multiple occasions

Even more exciting, the zoo recently opened ZOOm Air Adventures, the only zipline activity of its kind in the country. The aerial adventure course will allow visitors to explore the tree tops from an animal’s perspective. Students of all ages can explore one or all of the three tree top courses available.

This entertaining, yet educational, adventure gives nature lovers and challenge seekers alike an opportunity to enjoy the thrill of adventure in Central Florida!

For more information visit www.CentralFloridaZoo.org.

Jungle Adventures Nature Park & Zoo

This nature park and zoo is a natural habitat and real Florida — real as it gets. Jungle Adventures Nature Park and Zoo is a natural habitat located in Christmas, Florida. The Educational Wildlife En- counter programs are wonderful opportunities for teachers to provide enriching experiences for children of all ages to learn about Florida and their natural environment.

Expertly guided Educational Wildlife Encounter programs are available on-site at Jungle Adventures Nature Park and Zoo, or, if preferred, at a school or location anywhere in Central Florida with a visit from our Jungle Mobile.

Jungle Adventures Nature Park and Zoo offers several Live Guided Educational Tours for students, including Live Wildlife Shows and Encounters where students can see, up close and personal, and, when appropriate, touch wildlife that may include young American Alligators, a baby Florida Panther, turtles, snakes, skunks and exotic birds. Each program is expertly guided, licensed and insured, and may be 20 to 60 minutes long, depending upon your needs.

The Jungle Swamp Cruise is on a private Florida river that is inhabited by more than 200 alligators and surrounded by natural Florida flora and fauna. Jumpin’ Gator Jamboree is very popular. Students learn about alligators during feedings that are scheduled several times a day.

Live Guided Adventures include educational expeditions to our Native American Indian Village Replica, where students see how Native Americans lived in Florida centuries ago, as well as, visit a replica of a 16th Century Spanish Fort, which demonstrates how Spanish Conquistadors lived at that time.

Educational Wildlife Encounter Programs held on-site, may be followed by independent exploration of Jungle Adventures Nature Park and Zoo by students, escorted by teachers and chaperones, enhanced by expert guides available to answer questions throughout the park.

The future of our environment depends upon our children and their knowledge of our environment. Educational Wildlife Encounter Programs help guide children to understand their own place in the natural world and develop appreciation of the animals that share it. Important issues regarding threatened and endangered species are explored. In lively interaction with knowledgeable expert guides, your students absorb a wealth of age appropriate information about animals and their origins, habitats, diets, and the lives they live. For more information visit www.jungleadventures.com or call 407-568-2885, extension 15. Free Park passes are also available for teachers by calling 877-424- 2867.

Forever Florida

Forever Florida is a 4700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area boasting beautifully untamed wilderness, natural streams, wetlands and dense cypress forests. Choose your own fully-guided adventure:

  • Coach Safari
  • Horseback Safari
  • Zipline Safari™ Educational Tours offered include: ECO-Safari: This unique trip on the safari coach winds you through time and ecosystems. Taking you through the Crescent J Ranch, you’ll see descendents of Florida’s first cattle. As you leave the green pastures of the ranch, stretched out before you is the untouched part of natural, preserved Florida. This acreage, logged back in the early 1900s, has had the chance to regain its native state of Pine Flatwoods. Not only will you traverse through many varying ecosystems, but also, you’ll see wildlife and the Bull Creek watershed, a major tributary of the headwaters of the St Johns River. This tour takes about an hour and a half. 

Nature Hike: Hiking on foot through natural Florida takes on a whole new meaning when up close and personal. With this hike, you’ll learn the native plants and different ecosystems that reside right next to each other. Not only are you at a more even level with real Florida, but you also have the opportunity to bring teamwork to its best. During the hike, 20 minutes is set aside as a competition in which groups of five students compete against other groups for the most detailed information and the most closely working team. What is unique about this project is that students must all work as one, helping each other, in order for the project to be completed. This tour requires a minimum group of five and takes about one and one-half hours.

Heritage: Here, it’s easy to step back in timeto experience the “real” Florida. Not only does the history from the area come easily, but everyone will learn interesting new facts about the first cattle, those that herded them and amazing history of the state. Many tools and the lifestyle of living in the backwoods of Florida are unearthed with comedy and interaction.

Learning the uses of the cracker whip and lariat were of extreme importance even just 40 to 50 years ago. This hands-on history lesson allows the experience of demonstrating tools that are used even today in the cattle business. This tour is 45 minutes and requires a minimum of 10 students in 8th grade or under.

Animal Tracks: Get down and dirty as you plaster away at animal tracks and molds of snakes, frogs and other living things. Everyone willget a kick out of “unveiling” the newly molded sculpture. Then, with the opportunity of painting their sculptures,each person will beableto “hide” it andthen search for others’ sculptures, hoping their paint design leaves their sculpture hidden and unrecognizable. Books for this program can be obtained for future reference.

New at Forever Florida: Zip through Forever Florida. You’ll start with a short hike along a scenic section of the Florida Trail, one of only eight National Scenic Trails in the US, as you head toward the launching point of the zipline course. Led by anexpertguide, you’ll “zip” among the treesfrom platform to platform along a system of seven high-tension cables.

The breathtaking aerial view of the wilderness will be the perfect vantage point to spot wildlife and experience Florida’s ecology. Adding to the adventure, the course includes two sky-bridges passing over a slough, a type of forested wetland.

The final zip brings you to ground level near our wildlife interaction area which features a panther-hybrid, a close relative of the endangered Florida panther, alligators and other animals. Spend some time with them and then catch the next safari coach transport back to the visitor center.

For more information,e-mail [email protected], or call 407-433-5485.


The Florida Renaissance Festival

Good Luck and fare thee well on thy quest at the international award-winning Florida Renaissance Festival. Held at Historic Virginia key Beach Park in Miami, the festival welcomes students and educators to step back in time to learn about this fascinating period in history.

The Festival’s school program will bring to life 16th century Europe and is appropriate for all ages. Costumed performers, stage acts and crafts people will offer students an informative view of the Renaissance. The experience is so much fun and educational, some call it “Edutainment.”

The school program is scheduled for:Tue., Jan. 12, 2010 elementary and middle school; and Wed., Jan. 13, 2010 middle through high school. Each session will be held from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Other educational opportunities and demonstrations including glass blowing, human powered rides and artisan demos and are scheduled.Teachers and students should check for times and locations on the entertainment schedule to be sent to you prior to your arrival.

For more information contact Vicki Patterson at 954-7717117, e-mail [email protected] School days tickets cannot be purchased online.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Learning at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida offers a beautiful setting with challenging learning opportunities.

The Fairchild Challenge for middle and high school students is an annual, standards-based, environmental education outreach program. The program offers a menu of separate, but parallel, interdisciplinary challenge options for middle and high schools, attracting students of diverse interests, abilities, talents and backgrounds.

Through the challenge, students research and critically evaluate environmental topics, become more actively engaged citizens, and come to appreciate more fully the beauty and value of nature. By blending content areas to create activities, projects, and “authentic experiences” that use theenvironment as an integrating context for learning, the challenge promotes science literacy, civic engagement, creative expression, and lifelong learning in students and, by extension, in their respective circles of influence.

All middle schools earning more than 800 points, and all high schools earning more than 1000 points, will be presented with the 2010 Fairchild Challenge Award at the Tropical Botanic Garden’s awards ceremonies in May. The 16 top-scoring middle and high schools are awarded $250 to $1,000 for their environmental programs.

The Fairchild Botanic Gardens Explorers program is for Grades K- 5. Students are immersed in active learning explorations as they are guided by docents and staff throughout our 83-acre living museum. Students are involved in a variety of hands-on activities, take a narrated tram tour of the garden, participate in a propagation lesson in the outdoor classroom and make a botanical souvenir to take home. This program offers Sunshine State Standards-based, guided, grade specific tours for grades K-5 students. Teachers receive key curriculum materials designed to introduce science-based concepts and allow for student-learning evaluation.The field studies, coupled with pre and post-visit material, is designed to enhance students FCAT performance and environmental understanding.

Tours are scheduled on specific days for each grade level. For scheduling, call 305-667-1651 ext. 3322 or e-mail [email protected] org. Tour dates fill rapidly. Make reservations early!

For more information about other learning activities, teacher aides, and other learning programs and curricula contact Alison Walker at [email protected] or 305-667-1651 ext. 3440.

Billie Swamp Safari

Let your students be part of an extraordinary journey into the real Native Florida. They will be talking about their visit to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation for weeks afterward!

Billie Swamp Safari is the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s ecoheritage wildlife park in the Florida Everglades. It is a great field trip destination, offering fun outdoor, and educational experiences for all ages. Students can delve into the land of an unconquered nation whose rich culture and heritage continue to have a profound impact on our lives today.

While at Billie Swamp Safari students can:

  • Explore over 2200 acres of untamed Everglades
  • Ride an Airboat through the “River of Grass” and see alligators, birds and other wildlife up close and in their natural habitat
  • Walk through a Pop Ash Pond and Cypress Dome on our nature trail
  • Take a Swamp Buggy Eco-Tour and learn about the fragile eco-system of the Florida Everglades and see a Seminole encampment reconstructed on an authentic camp site
  • See many native and exotic animals roaming free
  • Watch a Snake and Alligator Educational Show or a Swamp Critter Show
  • Participate in a Birds of Prey Show or Aboriginal Tools Show

On February 26-28, 2010 the annual Big Cypress Shootout, 2nd Seminole War Reenactment will be held. For more information visit www.bigcypressshootout.com

For information contact: Amanda Crawford at 800-949-6101, ext. 12115, e-mail [email protected], or visit www.billieswampsafari. travel.


Lillian M. Spencer is Director of Communications, VISIT FLORIDA. For more information visit www.visitflorida.com.
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