One of the best ways we can preserve our fabulous award-winning state parks it to teach our children how wonderful they are and why they need to be protected for their children’s children. That is why Friends of Florida State Parks was proud to take over the LIFE program (Learning in Florida’s Environment) from the Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 and become its statewide administrator.
The curriculum-based LIFE program brings thousands of middle school children into the parks every year and for many, it is the first time they have been to a state park. They spend a day doing approved science experiments using the parks as open area science labs. More important, they have fun and want to come back.
For the last year, we have vigorously promoted the LIFE program and we are delighted to report that it is really catching on. We now have 20 parks offering the program or pledged to start it in the next few months. Our aim is to have 50 participating parks by 2020 which would mean at least 50,000 schoolchildren visiting the parks every year and perhaps very many more. It costs about $5,000 to supply each park with the scientific equipment it needs for their participating schools to use.
Developing the program and providing the resources to administer and manage it takes considerable time, money and expertise – but it is a program that will reap huge dividends by providing a different, more experiential learning experience to thousands of children who will, hopefully, become the guardians of our parks in the years ahead.
The success of the LIFE program has, however, flagged up a major problem and one that we need your help to resolve. Most, if not all, school districts in Florida have had to cut field trips from their budgets because of transportation costs. To counter this we started the Yellow Buses in the Park program to provide grants to cover these busing costs. Since this program was started more than $22,000 has been awarded in grants.
Now thanks to the success of the LIFE program we are getting many more requests for these grants. We receive no state funding and rely on donations and applying for grants to cover these costs but it is getting more difficult to secure grants and many grant awards are not made until many months after the initial application.
So, we are asking you, dear readers, to help fund this program so that it does not falter. We have pledged to raise $10,000 so that we can satisfy current grant requests and those that we expect in the next few months as more parks work with their local schools and host the LIFE program.
We realize that there are many demands made of you but the Yellow Bus program literally drives children into our state parks and if we can’t make any grants the children will not be able to come. You can donate on the website and mark the donation ‘yellow buses’. No donation is too small and every cent helps.If you love the parks as passionately as we do, please consider making a donation and help to make a difference. After all, these children are our future and if they learn to love the parks that is one of the greatest legacies we can have.
If you would like to donate, please click here!