I was lucky enough to get an interview with the director of Springs Coast Environmental Education Center, Cheryl Paradis; a graduate of the University of South Florida and a National Board Certified Teacher that was honored as the Hernando County Teacher of the Year in 1999.
We spoke about the great work they are doing at the school, the new butterfly garden, and what’s in store for the Weeki Wachee Springs Coast Environmental Education Center in Hernando County at the Weeki Wachee Springs River.
Not only is Cheryl great at what she does, she’s a great hostess and did a marvelous job of giving me a grand tour of this excellent school. We had a great conversation and by the time the interview was finished, I wanted to attend the school.
The Weeki Wachee Springs Coast Environmental Education Center (opened in August of 2010- the first group of students came through Septemeber 1, 2010) is right next door to the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, an amazing facility located on 23 acres of Scrub Habitat on the Weeki Wachee River. The land and facility is leased from Swiftmud (South West Florida Water Management District) by the Hernando County School Board. It has four large classrooms/labs, a large meeting room, an office and restrooms, a new hands-on science program, kayak tours, 1/2 mile hiking trail, picnic area and an outdoor classroom, plus a gorgeous butterfly garden with a new “rainwater collection system” for educational purposes only offered to Hernando county students. It’s a beautiful facility, inside and out.
The Environmental Education Center caters to Hernando County students grades 2, 4, 6 as well as high school students. The second graders are in for a treat, as soon they will be playing an integral part by helping take care of the flower watering in the butterfly garden (and another new butterfly garden on the way) with the new “rainwater collection system” in the works, as well as learning all about water conservation and much more.
The classrooms/labs are beatifully done and decorated with fully interactive stations that appeal to all ages, with games, science projects, water conservation interactive stations, ecosystems and habitats built for fun and education. See slideshow/video for more.
The new butterfly garden (by Suncoast for Kids Foundation) of freshly planted flower-box tiers of beautiful butterfly host plants fill the eyes with a multitude of flowers that butterflies and hummingbirds can’t help but flutter to including; confetti latana, pink and yellow lantana, pentas, plumbago, milkweed, firebrush and more all came from the Adventura Nursery right there in Hernando County. Even without the butterflies around, it’s a gorgeous sight to see.
“The garden is six 8- by 8-foot boxes with a total of 75 plants on a drip irrigation system supplied by rain barrels.”
Cheryl Paradis says she has already seen at least seven butterfly species in the new garden, and I spotted quite a few during my short visit.
While perusing the property with my camera in hand I spied the twinkling water of the springs river running through the back of the property and made my way down to the shoreline. It’s pristine crystal-clear water sung by in a symphony of sights, colors and sounds- I really wanted to kick off my shoes and go for a swim, but dared not, I must be a professional!- so I sighed, and snapped a few pics of the gorgeous view and made my way back to the office to bid farewell to Cheryl.
I so enjoyed my visit there, I may have to ask for a “follow up” interview just to see the property again. Those Hernando County students are blessed to have such an amazing resource at their fingertips.
Springs Coast Environmental Center
9170 Cortez Blvd,
Weeki Wachee, FL 34607-1900
Cheryl Paradis, Coordinator Springs Coast Environmental Center
If the video will not load you can visit it HERE at youtube!