Students get back in the field at Vester Field Station

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro
Published: Updated:
Chad Evers is a professor at the FGCU Water School. He took his students out in the field to explore SWFL”s waters. (CREDIT: WINK News)

The pandemic shifted both the teaching and learning model these past couple of years at every age.

Many still work to fill in the gap of time and lessons lost due to social distance learning.

One group in Southwest Florida is getting back on board with their education.

Give Chad Evers a choice and he’d rather be teaching a hands-on lesson outdoors than in a classroom.

On this day, Evers shared his joy with his students at Vester Field Station along Estero Bay.

This is FGCU’s base for research of our coastal and watershed habitats.

“I mean this is great, great hands-on teaching,” Evers said.

Evers teaches that “everything is connected.”

And in the water, the circle of life start, not with fish but with what fish feed on.

“We talked about how the seagrasses are really important for, you know, stabilizing the bottom, they provide habitat, they provide food, they provide oxygen to the water, and they’re really just a keystone species for our coastal ecosystems,” Evers said.

During the pandemic, these trips did not happen.

These seniors didn’t get the chance to see and feel for themselves nature in action.

So now Evers and his class is playing catchup.

And there is an urgency to what they are doing.

Evers said he is training the world’s future environmental leaders.

“I think really, the key to saving the world is environmental education. And I think a lot of our environmental problems are partially problems because people don’t realize that they are problems,” Evers said.

His students said there’s no substitute for what they’re learning on the water and what they are learning from Evers.

Jake Waite is a senior who originally planned to major in environmental engineering.

But he changed his mind once he got to FGCU.

“Since the 90s, going forward, the environment has been slowly declining. Metrics are kind of going up all over. And I’d like to be part of solution rather than part of the problem,” Waite said.

For Stephanie Wagley, growing up in Southwest Florida influenced her decision to study its water.

“Seeing all the development going on in the area. Like, it really saddens me. So I just want to like help protect it or raise awareness on how we can live more sustainably in this beautiful place that we can call our home,” Wagley said.

FGCU also used its Vester Field Station for work on red tide and harmful algal bloom research.

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