SARASOTA — The PIER Program engaged 1,266 students the past school year in 32 field trips to explore the Sarasota Bay watershed. There were also 179 adults who learned with the students. PIER field trips are organized by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) in partnership with Around the Bend Nature Tours.

PIER is an acronym for Protection, Involvement, Education and Restoration. The field trips provide hands-on learning focused on water sampling, water quality testing, conservation, and the identification of plant and animal species. Some of the field trip destinations include: Ken Thompson Park, Oscar Scherer State Park, Emerson Point Preserve, Joan Durante Park, and Osprey’s Bay Preserve in cooperation with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

SBEP launched PIER in 2003. The program has engaged more than 38,000 students in public and private schools as well as home schooled students throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. PIER also includes full day science teacher training workshops at New College of Florida. The workshops are led by Sandra Gilchrist, PhD and focus on three areas: Introduction to Estuaries, Endangered Coasts and Waves and Currents.

Since its inception 26 years ago, SBEP has taken an active role in environmental education by publishing reports, developing curricula for schools and initiating hands-on activities that engage adults and students of all ages.

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