Teamwork, leadership, environmental stewardship and boating safety are just a few of the many concepts AMIkids youths learn during the monthly Floating Classroom Program led by educators from Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.
AMIkids is a Florida-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping troubled youths develop into responsible and productive citizens. Founded in 1969, AMIkids currently operates 44+ programs across nine states, impacting the lives of more than 135,000 youth. Many of the youth who participate in AMIkids have ended up in the juvenile justice system and/or are at-risk.
“Our collaboration with Mote’s Education program gives AMIkids youths the chance to explore their own environment via their natural curiosity," said Jordan Carroll, AMIkids boat program development. "Many of our youths have realized that they can have careers that change the world around them because of these field trips. Mote’s educators give a really important gift, which is time: time to get to know the kids and time to really engage with them. These participants really need that.”
AMIkids program participants typically live in urban or suburban areas and have had little exposure to the marine environment. Before they can attend the Floating Classroom, students must complete a specified curriculum of enhanced learning.
“By requiring these kids to complete specific assignments prior to even stepping foot on the boat, we help them learn that hard work pays off,” Carroll said. “They want to learn more about the world around them, including marine life, by building in life lessons like dedication into this program. It becomes a big win for the youth involved.”
During Mote-led Floating Classroom programs, AMIkids participants learn about the importance of Florida’s estuaries and ways that they can be good stewards of their environment. They explore some of the diversity of organisms living in these habitats and use scientific tools like microscopes to observe plankton collected in the bay and a hydrometer to measure salinity of the water. Students are exposed to the array of technology on the vessel, discuss boating safety and may even have an opportunity to drive the boat.
“The more children and young adults we can expose to our local environment, the more likely they will realize that they can make a positive impact on the world,” expressed Mote's Community Engagement Coordinator, Elaina Todd. “The kids in the AMIkids program are just few of the many Mote will continue to try to inspire through educational experiences like this one.”
Mote’s collaboration with AMIkids began in 2015. To date the program has a served more than 164 students, 94 of those in 2017 alone. The program plans to increase the number of trips per month and to expand the lessons plans and curriculum to opportunities off the boat.
“My favorite part about the Mote field trips is that we get to learn about things like estuaries and plankton – these are things I have never seen before,” said Junior Chery, a ninth grader who has participated in AMIkids for two months. “Experiences are always better than sitting in class if you ask me.”