Being in south Florida, we are literally surrounded by precious natural environments – the ocean, the coral reefs, mangroves, the Everglades, to name a few. That means we are in a position to negatively affect our surroundings if we don’t pay attention, but we are also in a position to make a positive difference if we are willing to try. Thanks to Fernando Bretos and the Museum’s Reclamation Project, which works to restore mangrove environments in south Florida, Digital WAVE students were able to contribute to the restoration effort. After learning about the Reclamation Project in the morning, students saw just how interconnected everything in the world really is. Everyone was assigned to be a plant or animal in a mangrove habitat (i.e. fish, seagrass, humans, mangroves, etc), and stood in a circle. One student started out with a ball of string, and that person threw it to another person who represented a plant or animal directly connected to them by the food chain. The second person threw it to the third, and so on, until we had a literally interconnected web, showing that if one thing is in trouble, we are all in trouble. With this inspiration in mind, Fernando took the students to a mangrove restoration site on Virginia Key. Students stepped into the ankle-deep muddy water (sometimes knee-deep when you least expected it), and planted mangrove seedlings, doing their part to help all of us.
Archive for June, 2012
This summer, Digital WAVE is all about what we can do – what we can do for our environment, what we can do in our homes and schools, and how we can create a better future. Through our virtual world, students met with Martin Keeley, Education Director for the Mangrove Action Project. Students’ avatars and Mr. Keeley’s avatar were all together at our virtual campfire, even though students were in the Museum’s computer lab and Martin was in his office in the Cayman Islands. Martin has lived and worked in East Africa, Asia, Alaska, Canada, Central and South America, as well as the US, as a teacher, photo-journalist, and environmental educator, and has founded award-winning wetland education projects. Students learned from Martin all about the importance of mangrove environments – they are vital marine and coastal habitats and also protect coastal communities from storm surges. Martin shared his unique career path, showing that all you have to do is follow your passion in life, work hard at what is important, and you can make a difference in the world. You just might have to put up with your feet getting a little bit muddy.
Climate change is a global problem, and will take global collaboration between nations and innovative “green” technologies. But what can we do about it as individuals in our own homes, schools, and communities? This summer, Digital WAVE students have been figuring that out. The goal was to create a 3D virtual house that would be the “greenest house in Miami,” powered by renewable energy sources like water, wind and the Sun. First, students had to learn more about energy, and where better to do that then with the Energy Tracker exhibits at the Museum? After interacting with Museum exhibits about wind turbines, hydroelectricity, and solar power, students investigated these energy sources more, by building their own Snap Circucits with batteries, voltmeters, and mini windmills, water wheels, and solar panels. How much power can you get from these energy sources? How can using these technologies make our lives better and our future cleaner? Based on their experience with Museum exhibits, the circuits they built, and their own research, groups of students decided what they wanted to build in their 3D virtual house to make the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient in Miami (even if it’s virtual Miami).
At the end of every Digital WAVE session, we celebrate the students’ accomplishment with students, Museum staff, invited families and friends … and of course, chocolate cake! At our recent Family Event at the end of this year’s spring session, students presented the virtual world projects they’d created, which were designed to illustrate water pathways and the impacts of climate change on south Florida. Throughout the program, students gathered information for their projects through all kinds of fun activities. They went on a field trip to Anne Kolb Nature Center, met in-person with University of Miami scientist Dr. Arthur Mariano, met Dr. Annmarie Eldering of NASA via virtual worlds, conducted their own research, and built model aquifers. They even met virtually with students from Maloka Interactive Science Center in Colombia, who were also working on water and climate related projects, through the Museum’s SCEnaRioS project. The final result was truly impressive, because not only did each group create south Florida environments like the Everglades or downtown Miami, but all of the groups worked together to make these environments fit in one interactive map of south Florida. All of the students received well-deserved certificates of completion, not to mention some yummy cake.
Imagine you are flying above Florida, looking down at the winding (and in some places straight) Kissimmee River, the enormous Lake Okeechobee, the patchwork quilt of farmlands, the watery green Everglades, and the urban sprawl of houses and roads. For those of us who are not superheroes with the ability to fly, the students participating in our Digital WAVE program can give you that opportunity. They have been learning about climate change and the water pathways throughout south Florida, and have created a 3D virtual south Florida to illustrate these crucial environmental issues. Take a photo tour of south Florida with us, and you will be amazed at the progress amd creativity of these young people. (Click on each image to see a larger picture.)