One of RMA’s goals is to instill a love of the outdoors and the environment in Bay County’s youth by providing them with the opportunity to participate in high-quality and high-impact watershed experiences that are imbedded into monthly classroom learning programs along with field experiences. RMA’s St. Andrew Bay Grasses in Classes (GIC) program started in 2014, establishes a connection between students and the St. Andrew Bay watershed and its various ecosystems by providing students with exponential Meaningful Watershed experiences that strengthen and nurture their sense of community.
Michelle Duncan with NOAA teaches GIC students about aquatic species during a living shoreline project in 2019.
RMA’s GIC program is a multifaceted hands-on learning program that works directly with Bay County School district middle and high school students at the Deane Bozeman School and North Bay Haven Charter Academy in Bay County Florida. Currently, the GIC program reaches approximately 400 students and 4 teachers each year. The Gulf of Mexico Priorities that the program encompasses are:
- Wetland and coastal conservation and restoration
- Water quality for shellfish beds
- Environmental education
- Reducing nutrient inputs into coastal ecosystems
- Coastal community resiliency
Each year, the program culminates in an end of year restoration project to” Stem the Tides” along St. Andrew Bay. Participants in the GIC program are engaged in hands-on, student centered environmental learning that increases environmental awareness and alters behaviors that will lead to a more sustainable future for the next generation of watershed stewards. Volunteers are recruited and trained to assist with the implementation of the monthly programs. This partnership increases the teacher capacity to implement meaningful watershed learning in their classroom via an online portal, where instructors can access program materials for use in the classroom during any time throughout the year.