Ecosystem education

Students to take virtual canoe tour

 
 
Participants in the 2013 River of Grass Canoe Expedition
Participants in the 2013 River of Grass Canoe Expedition
Arthur R. Marshall Foundation / Courtesy photo

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

South Florida elementary and middle school students learning about the importance of historic water flows through the Everglades will be able to take a virtual canoe tour of this critical ecosystem from their classrooms Tuesday through Friday.

Chris Carl of West Palm Beach will lead a handful of expert paddlers on an expedition beginning on Lake Okeechobee at Clewiston, following the Miami Canal and then the Miami River and ending at the Rickenbacker Causeway on Biscayne Bay. The trip will be webcast live to fifth- through seventh-grade classrooms in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties via Adobe Connect at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily. Students will be able to follow the group’s progress and ask them questions.

“It’s about the river and its history and how it impacts the city,” Carl said. “We’re not just showing up in schools lecturing on what we think they want to know. They’re asking us questions and directing what they want to learn.”

The 2014 River of Grass Canoe Expedition — the fourth in a series of annual treks funded by the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation — will cover about 85 miles, tracing water flow, monitoring water quality, and examining the health of plants and animals.

From Clewiston, the group will head east across the Big O and pull their canoes across the dike into the Miami Canal at its north end. They’ll pack the canoes on a trailer and drive south on U.S. 27 to Everglades Holiday Park in west Broward to camp. The next day, they’ll resume paddling on the L-67 canal to the Miami Canal and spend the night at Mack’s Fish Camp. From Mack’s, the explorers will paddle south to Miami Springs, camping at the Lions Club. On Friday, they’ll canoe south on the Miami River through the lock at NW 36th Street and continue downriver, passing the historic Miami Circle, heading into Biscayne Bay and disembarking on the beach beside the Rickenbacker.

“This year’s expedition will be especially interesting to the students because they will be able to see the changes from fresh water at the top of the Miami Canal to brackish water further south, and then to saltwater at the Miami River,” Carl said. “They will see the changes in the plant life along the way and the effect salt water has as it intrudes deeper into the canal from the Miami River. The route is also important historically because it was a significant transportation route in the 1800s.”

Besides Carl, the core group will include Susan Sylvester, operations bureau chief with the South Florida Water Management District; Tomas Boiton of Lake Park, founder of Citizens for Improved Transit; Miami attorney and conservationist Charlie Arazoza; Victor Suarez of Fort Lauderdale, an environmental educator with Broward County; Coral Springs nature photographer Flex Maslan; University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researcher Janet Talbot; Massachusetts snowbird/educator and part-time Palm Beach Gardens resident Hope Hitchcock and her home-schooled seventh-grade son Ted. Several teachers and students from around the region are expected to join the expedition for day paddles.

Classroom teachers who want to join the webcasts may call 561-233-9004 or visit www.artmarshall.org.

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