At the Florida Wildlife Federation’s 77th Annual Conservation Awards Banquet June 21, 2014, at the Naples Hilton, Nature’s Academy Founder Dana Pounds was recognized for her commitment to scientific literacy and environmental knowledge through personal inquiry.
In 2007, Ms. Pounds founded Nature’s Academy, a Bradenton-based nonprofit education organization. Ms. Pounds is a marine biologist by training who has taught and delivered programs for over 20 years. Nature’s Academy education programs have positively impacted over 35,000 participants including visitors from 41 states and four countries.
To counter students’ lack of proficiency in science, Nature’s Academy launched the Science Literacy Project. It is free to schools and students. By prioritizing local public schools in economically disadvantaged areas, this project provides a curriculum designed to increase environmental stewardship. Aligning with STEM, Common Core, and Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, the program’s content includes outdoor investigation and data collection.
Environmental accountability is instilled in students through coastal and school litter cleanups and community awareness initiatives. Students use dip nets to survey seagrass bed biodiversity and collect water quality data on temperature, salinity, pH, turbidity, nitrate, and dissolved oxygen levels. As citizen scientists, the children contribute toward the long-term monitoring of local estuarine health and teachers can integrate the data into classroom activities. Schools are provided the tools to conduct post-field trip litter cleanups. As they “green” their school, each class records and tracks litter statistics. This initiative continues the experiential learning process and sparks changes in behavior as students actively participate in pollution prevention.
Through Ms. Pounds’ leadership, Nature’s Academy has partnered with the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) and Galveston Bay Foundation (Texas). Additionally, the Academy works with many local and Gulf-wide organizations to spread environmental education far and wide.
The Federation’s annual selection of conservation award winners is one of the oldest in the state. Award winners are chosen from nominations made to the Federation’s board of directors based on their accomplishments on behalf of Florida’s wildlife and native habitats.
Florida Wildlife Federation is a statewide non-profit organization founded in 1936 to promote the conservation and ethical use of Florida’s natural resources. The Federation is the exclusive Florida affiliate to National Wildlife Federation.