For the second year, St Johns RIVERKEEPER and Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) are partnering through the STEAM Cultural Passport Program to provide on-the-water learning experiences for Title I 5th-grade students in Duval County during the 2016-2017 school year. With additional financial support from CSX and the Edna Sproull Williams Foundation, the partnership includes educational boat trips on the St. Johns River for approximately 5,900 elementary school students from low-income families.  Last year, nearly 4,000 students participated on the boat trips. 

The STEAM Cultural Passport is a DCPS program that provides students in Title I elementary schools with three to four educational field trips per year. These field trip experiences are connected to programs and offerings in Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts, and Mathematics. Organizations are selected through an application process, and events are scheduled according to available services to schools. The program is currently funded through federal dollars and provides cultural experiences to students, most of whom would not otherwise receive these kinds of opportunities.

During each trip, the students will board a St. Johns River Taxi boat from Friendship Fountain Park for a 1 ½ hour tour of the river. While on board, they will rotate through a series of educational activities that correlate to state standards and focus on river science.

Students will learn to use water quality monitoring equipment, gather and interpret water quality data, record observational data on manatees and dolphins in the St. Johns River, examine river plants and animals for adaptations that enable them to thrive in the river ecosystem, and use their water quality data and what they learn on the trips to make predictions about the future of the St. Johns River.

“So many of these kids have never had the opportunity to experience the St. Johns from the water,” explains Emily Floore, the St. Johns RIVERKEEPER Education Director. “This program offers students a hands-on, comprehensive learning experience that will enhance their knowledge of the river while allowing them to develop a closer relationship to our community’s greatest natural resource."

“We are very excited about partnering with St. Johns RIVERKEEPER to offer this unique opportunity for 5th grade students at our Title I schools,” shared Jeff Smith. “Learning from RIVERKEEPER experts about the St. Johns River while riding a boat aboard that river will transform the lives of these students and support the high quality education provided in our classrooms.”

“CSX values its ongoing partnership with St. Johns Riverkeeper and is glad to support hands-on environmental learning for children in DCPS schools,” says John Kitchens, CSX Director of Corporate Citizenship. “The environment is a focus of CSX’s community involvement efforts and helping to educate students about the St. Johns River is critical to its future and the future of surrounding communities.”