US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Nature’s Academy, Inc. Receives Third Place Gulf Guardian Award in the Youth Environmental Education Category


Stennis Space Center, MS -- The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced Nature’s Academy Inc. will receive a Third Place 2013 Gulf Guardian Award in the Youth Environmental Education Category for its Island Adventure Project. The awards ceremony will be held on June 26, 2013, at the Tampa Bay Grand Hyatt beginning at 6PM.

Since 2009, the Island Adventures Project (IAP) has impacted over 4,500 Pinellas and Manatee County fifth grade students in Florida. At no cost to the schools, participants are given the opportunity to investigate the complex ecological connections comprising their local estuaries, watershed and barrier islands. The project reinforces comprehension through inquiry-based field work, including water quality testing, sea grass biodiversity study, and a shark dissection led by biologists. Students also participate in a coastal cleanup which reinforces a sense of stewardship for the Gulf’s limited resources, as well as the anthropogenic aspects that impact the area.

The IAP aims to improve local science literacy by delivering an engaging educational experience that further connects coastal communities with their local environment and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. In a comprehensive analysis by the State Education and Environmental Roundtable (SEER), 92% of students exposed to outdoor environmental programs outperform their peers from traditional classroom based programs in standardized testing and academic performance. By providing this alternative educational approach, the efficacy of the IAP has been demonstrated in the previous four years by an average 85% increase in academic achievement directly correlated with this project.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.

“This year’s Gulf Guardian Award recipients are to be commended for providing environmental leadership to protect and restore one of our nation’s most treasured natural resources, the Gulf of Mexico. These Award recipients are true environmental stewards and protectors of this vital ecosystem,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development

Ben Scaggs, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “Given all the incredible challenges that the Gulf has faced over the last several years and the work that has continued with strength and vigor despite what sometime seem like overwhelming obstacles, it is difficult to adequately and succinctly express the community value of the awards and the role they play in reminding us of what yet needs to be done while giving us all the energy and optimism to stay the course.”

For more information please contact, Jessika Blersch, Phone: (941) 538-6829; or Email:

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