As soon as they heard the word, “Go,” a flock of Florida science teachers took off running toward buckets of aquatic plants, eager to identify them.
Cheyenne Novotny and a team of three fellow educators classified them quickly, sifting through pages of notes, ID cards and pamphlets that unfolded to reveal hundreds of photos of plants. As her teammates shouted out their best guesses, she scribbled down the name of the corresponding species on her worksheet — extra points if she remembered the scientific name.
As in most classrooms, cellphone use was strictly prohibited.
After 15 minutes, Novotny threw up her hands, announced, “We’re done!” and ran her paper to a nearby supervisor to check the team’s answers.
“We take competition very seriously,” she said.
Florida schools just broke for summer, but 24 teachers are already gearing up for fall at Plant Camp, a five-day workshop for Florida educators to learn about invasive plant species through hands-on activities so that they can apply and share that knowledge in the classroom come August.
Science and social studies teachers from across the state applied for a spot in the camp, hosted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Invasive Plant Management Section.
Though the program runs the same length as a school week, coordinator Dehlia Albrecht said the lessons of environmental stewardship endure long after teachers return to school.
“If we brought 24 students here, we’d only…
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