In a world now shaped by social distancing, the St. Johns River Water Management District has responded quickly to the need for new ways to continue its outreach and education programs.
On April 30, the district’s Office of Communications launched free weekly webinars on topics ranging from water conservation education and waterwise landscaping to an overview of the district’s role in protecting Florida’s water. The response has been so positive that plans are underway to continue the series, says Jennifer Mitchell, the district public communications coordinator responsible for educational outreach.
“Our participants have really good questions and want to understand the district’s work to protect water and the role they can play in doing that,” Mitchell says. “My goal is to get information to the public and webinars are allowing me to do that despite the limitations the pandemic has created.”
Traditionally, Mitchell traveled through the district’s 18 counties to give regular educational presentations to civic organizations, homeowners associations and in classrooms. Once most district employees began working from home, she transitioned to hosting webinars with question and answer sessions rather than give up on interacting with the public.
The first webinar drew more than 70 viewers. Mitchell’s presentation included online polls and the interactive Q and A portion to engage her audience. For the next two webinars, Mitchell teamed up with Deirdre Irwin, the district’s water conservation coordinator, focusing on water conservation and landscape irrigation.
“This venue, although new to me, felt like any other presentation and I enjoyed sharing water conservation information and hearing the questions,” Irwin says. “I am hoping we reach some people who may not have the opportunity to travel to hear us speak.”
The district’s Office of Communications strives to heighten public awareness about its mission through social media, its StreamLines digital magazine, news releases, website and ever-growing use of video. Webinars are another innovative way for the agency to educate and interact with the public it serves, says district Communications Manager Nancy Rubin.
“I am proud of the team for swiftly changing gears and finding updated ways to keep in touch with our communities,” Rubin says. “Our scientific colleagues throughout the district embrace updated technology when it comes to water protection and water conservation. Now, it is our turn to build on the culture of innovation in order to do our jobs better.”
The district’s next webinar is May 21 and will focus on stormwater. Go to www.sjrwmd.com/education to register and view previous webinars.