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Press Release

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Elizabeth Hirst
(850) 562-5300

Cool eco-Volunteer Science Program…Plants Florida Middle School Students in the State Parks!

~ Volunteer USA and Wal-Mart Foundations partner with Florida State Parks and Education Leaders to inspire young minds ~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a $50,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, Volunteer USA Foundation has partnered with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Education (DOE) to develop a unique science-focused education course for middle school students in Florida. The “green” program is the brainchild of Volunteer USA’s eco-VolunteerUSA program and is being tailored for middle-schoolers to promote an interest in science as well as the spirit of volunteerism in state parks.

“We are incredibly excited to be launching this engaging and interactive learning opportunity for teachers and students to use the state’s magnificent parks as their learning laboratory,” Liza McFadden, president of Volunteer USA, said. “It’s our hope to spark a real interest among young people about the various career and volunteer opportunities available to them that relate to our environment and world in which we live.”

With life science being part of the middle school curriculum, the eco-Volunteer program includes:

  • Full-color “monster” poster on non-native plants.
  • Four hands-on lessons which are aligned with Florida Sunshine State Standards in the areas of: Science Investigation, Food Web and Limiting Factors, and Restoration & Maintenance.
  • Coordination with our eco-Volunteer team to set up a field day at a local state park to learn to identify non-native plants, and an opportunity to pull these plants and meet community service requirements passed last year by the legislature for 7th grade students.
  • Students earn status of “eco-Volunteers” for pulling non-native plants, and they and their teacher(s) receive one-day passes to any Florida State Park for themselves and their families.

“The eco-Volunteer Program is a unique opportunity for Florida’s middle school students to learn about the state’s unique environment and natural resources and we are proud to support such a valuable effort and investment in Florida’s future leaders,” Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart senior manager for public affairs, said. In addition to introducing middle school students to parks throughout Florida, eco-Volunteer’s school program is designed to introduce more schools to DEP’s existing Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE) initiative, which establishes field-based, environmental-science education programs within interested Florida school districts.

“Working with Volunteer USA in Florida’s state parks enables us to reach even more students and educate them about Florida’s unique and fragile natural resources,” DEP Secretary Mimi A. Drew said. “We hope this unique approach to learning will engage new environmental stewards, bring more students into the LIFE program and encourage students to bring their families to a state park.”

Partners in the project look forward to adding this option as a way to broaden science opportunities and inspire students who get to use the state parks as their classroom. In addition, this opportunity provides 7th grade students a way to fulfill a state education standard to “complete a service project to further the public good.”

“This new program is a great way to expose creative young minds to the world of science and push student interest forward in this critical subject area,” Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith said.

Teachers interested in the eco-Volunteer science program will receive at no cost – an instructional training guide, lesson plans and classroom poster promoting science, community service and the wonders of the environment.

To register for free classroom or home school materials, including lesson plans and posters, and to be a part of the eco-volunteer movement, teachers should email .

Downloadable resources are also available to teachers through the Department of Education’s Just for Teachers instructional resources web page at