Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

Our Blue School Grant Program: Inspiring tomorrow’s scientists and engineers

Oct. 15, 2020

Dr. Ann Shortell talking to students

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle (center) participated with students in January 2020 during a field trip to the Julington-Durbin Preserve for a Blue School Grant project.

As a lifelong student of the sciences, I’m encouraged when I see students explore their passion for the natural world.

Now in its fifth year, our Blue School Grant Program offers 6–12th grade teachers the opportunity to apply for up to $2,000 in funding for hands-on projects to enhance student development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related topics and increase their understanding of Florida’s water resources.

In January, I had the opportunity to join student-scientists benefiting from the District’s Blue School Grant Program as they tested water quality along a tributary to the St. Johns River at Julington-Durbin Preserve. It was wonderful to interact with them as they conducted tests along the waterway, in person and up close. They were clearly engaged; there’s nothing quite like active learning to transform education into something that can have a lifetime impact.

Every year, the Blue School Grant Program grows in popularity. This year, 16 teachers applied for a slice of the $20,000 available. Our review team selected 14 projects from 14 different schools in eight counties from across the District.

The teachers in our District were resourceful and creative with their project submissions. Projects include water-conserving landscape projects, water resources field study projects and a water resources school awareness project.

Teachers like Alicia Pressel, a previous grant recipient at Creekside High School in St. Johns County, tell us that the Blue School Grants Program allows students the opportunity to make a personal connection with Florida’s water resources. We hear repeatedly about the long-lasting impact of these grants from teachers throughout the District who have participated in our program.

Congratulations to the teachers and schools receiving 2020–21 Blue School Grants:

  • Philip Randolph, Duval County
  • Clay High School, Clay County
  • Crescent City High School, Putnam County
  • David C. Hinson Middle School, Volusia County
  • Flagler Palm Coast High School, Flagler County
  • Freedom Crossing Academy, St. Johns County
  • Keystone Heights Jr./Sr. High School, Clay County
  • New Smyrna Beach High School, Volusia County
  • Oak Hill Academy, Duval County
  • Palm View Academy, St. Johns County
  • Ridgeview High School, Clay County
  • Sculptor Charter, Brevard County
  • Augustine High School, St. Johns County
  • Vanguard High School, Marion County

I commend all the teachers who applied for this year’s round of program funding. I hope they will continue to seek opportunities to develop curricula that inspires the scientists and engineers of tomorrow so that these young people grow into dedicated stewards of our water resources. I look forward to seeing this year’s Blue School Grant-funded projects move forward in the months ahead.

See our past stories

It’s fall house cleaning time for woodpecker cavities
October’s creepy crawlies: See spider photos taken on District lands
Message from Dr. Ann Shortelle: Fall is a great time to visit a District land
Restoring a coastal wetland on the Indian River Lagoon