South Florida’s marine world is a jewel, but like the rest of Florida’s habitat, it’s under attack, by environmental degradation, overfishing and other manmade factors. Education is the best form of conservation, and it starts with our children. Sadly, many local children do not recognize or appreciate the value and opportunity the marine world offers in their own backyard. In fact, some kids, especially in our poorest communities, have never even been to the ocean, even though they live a few short miles away. Others believe they have to travel hours to the Florida Keys to get a taste of the fishing, boating, snorkeling and other spectacular opportunities available right here in South Florida. The FFA Marine Lab at Riviera Beach will bring that lesson home, where it belongs.

In this classroom-based program, our students will use microscopes to examine micro-organisms from live rock, test water samples and study tidal currents. Guided by Florida Fishing Academy instructors, they will dissect fish, squid or other marine life. They will examine the biological composition of a fish’s eyeballs, gills, scales, bones and vertebrae, which can be useful in identifying not only the species but also the age of a fish. They will explore the local marine habitat and study Florida’s oceans wonders. Each class will also receive a strong dose of instruction on character-building, family-bonding, leadership opportunities and other life lessons.

Since 2004, the Florida Fishing Academy has delivered a highly celebrated, custom-designed fishing education and life skills program to Palm Beach County elementary, middle and high schools students. At its heart, the Angling For a Healthy Future curriculum is an environmental awareness initiative that teaches children – tomorrow’s boaters, anglers and environmental stewards – to enjoy Florida’s fragile marine resources in a way that preserves the ecosystem for generations to come. The program also arms these kids with the tools and knowledge to resist the temptations of the streets and to gain a richer appreciation for our local waters. Some even use what we teach them to pursue jobs in the marine industries.

Using the lessons we’ve learned and taught, the FFA is prepared to bring an advanced Marine Lab program and science center to Palm Beach County, based largely on the Angling For a Healthy Future curriculum. We would be responsible for purchasing the land and development of the property, along with staffing, equipment, utilities and other expenses. We come fully insured with several million-dollar commercial liability policies. We also will be responsible for recruiting students to take part in the program, largely as a school-approved field trip and education destination for area kids. FFA will be reimbursed for costs through capital campaigns, grants, fundraising efforts and fee-based offerings to schools and other organizations.

The following is a sample of programs the FFA Marine Lab would offer:

The Basics of Marine Education

In this classroom-based program, students will learn the basics of fishing — tying a hook, casting, boating safety, the environmental benefits of catch-and-release, fish identification and marine biology. They will also learn how to repair their rods, how to clean and cook their catches, and how to dissect a fish. For the first time in an FFA program, FFA Marine Lab students will use recently acquired microscopes to examine the biological composition of a squid and fish. They will examine microorganisms from live rock and a water cycle through an aquaponics aquarium tank. We will have a marine touch tank, antique rods and reels and various examples of marine art. Each class will also have a strong dose of character-building, family-bonding, leadership opportunities and other life lessons.
Classroom size: Maximum of 60 students

Fish Identification Snorkeling Trips

This class is designed to supplement the Basics of Marine Lab course with a program taught exclusively by boat, the Thea Marie, a 49-passenger, Coast Guard-inspected, handicapped-accessible hybrid catamaran docked at the nearby Riviera Beach Marina. Students and their chaperones will depart from the Marine Education facility docks and ride to various snorkeling locations off the shores of Palm Beach County, particularly off Peanut Island. At the direction of FFA guides and instructors, students will identify various species of fish and other marine life. While snorkeling, students will study the manatee’s habitat and plant-based food sources, and will get a chance to see manatees from a safe distance during their prime migration season in November and December. Since many manatees bear propeller scars from dangerous collisions with boats, these sightings will serve as a stark reminder of the great care that must be taken while boating during manatee season. Younger students will also explore the effects of water pollution and its impact on the manatee.
Classroom size: Maximum of 40 students and 8 chaperones

FFA Marine Lab Summer Camps at Riviera Beach Marina

As a bonus, the FFA will offer our signature snorkeling, kayaking and fishing summer camps, launching from the Riviera Beach Marina. As with all FFA summer camps, Northboro Marine Education Program campers will spend the first day reviewing camp rules and expectations, getting to know the FFA Marine Lab at Northboro building and filling out a survey to demonstrate their level of knowledge and skills. They would then travel to the Riviera Beach Marina and begin their camp.