The Learning in
Florida’s Environment or LIFE program is a statewide program of the
Department of Environmental Protection that brings middle school
students out to public conservation lands for science-based
environmental education. The goals of the LIFE program include
increasing student achievement in science, strengthening teacher
capacity for inquiry-based instruction, and preparing students for
future studies and careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics) fields.
Since 2004, over 21,000 students and teachers have participated in hands-on field labs in more than 22 different state parks and other public conservation areas. The LIFE program has produced over 80 unique, outdoor, environmental science field labs following the “Five-E” Instructional Delivery Model. The program follows eleven guiding principles which include:
- Long-term partnerships: establish a Partnership Agreement between conservation area and school for lasting programs (e.g., Build, Operate, Transfer, Sustain or BOTS model)
- Prioritize underserved groups: focus on schools where the need is the greatest; use cultural competency to tailor programs (e.g., Cultural Competency Self-Assessment)
- Collaborative content development: Field experiences are co-designed and co-delivered by teachers and site staff/rangers
- Inquiry-based learning: Labs use an abbreviated version of the 5E’s instructional delivery method: Engage; Explore; Explain
- Multiple field experiences: No one-time “field trips.” Multiple field experiences that allow students to develop skills and experience in conducting field investigations.
- Integrated teacher training: Teacher training takes place before, during and after the field experiences.
- Subject integration (STEM): Provide real-world opportunities for students to integrate all subjects.
- Promote the use of real-world technology: Emphasize real-world outdoor technology (e.g., WeatherSTEM; GPS)
- Service learning & restoration: combine learning with community service often through restoration projects (e.g., sea oat planting)
- Comprehensive assessment: Assessment takes place at different levels (e.g., Pre/posttest; end of year online survey; performance assessment)
- Promote physical activity: Promote and document benefits of physical activity associated with field experiences (e.g., use of MyTracks)
Possibly the biggest success of the LIFE program has been the
establishment of a consistent program model for environmental education
within the department and beyond. The program’s core set of guiding
principles establish continuity from one site to the next, while
allowing content to be tailored to the specific needs of participating
teachers and the unique attributes of each field site. These guiding
principles include multiple field visits during the year, content
alignment to state standards, emphasis on field based observation and
inference, long-term partnership agreements, collaborative content
development and delivery, subject integration, systematic assessment
practices, a focus on underserved and/or underrepresented populations,
and the integration of service learning.
For information on volunteering or interning with the Office of Environmental Education and The Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE) program please contact:
Jackie Zimmerman (850) 245-2145
3900 Commonwealth Blvd MS #30
Tallahassee, Florida 32399