First School in America Offering SCUBA Curriculum

A small community can lead a nation in making a change that couples high school with hands on water skills and environmental awareness. It appears that we have that in Citrus County Florida, one of the smallest and least wealthy counties in Florida. Two Rotarians updated the Crystal River Rotary on this innovative project.

The Academy of Environmental Science

Academy SCUBAThe Academy of Environmental Science is a Citrus County, FL School Board sponsored public charter school. Founded in 1999, its origin is a partnership with numerous individuals, organizations, and agencies. The Academy’s goals include developing a sense of stewardship in its students  It develops environmental awareness through instruction and community service. Located on the beautiful Salt River, the Academy’s waterfront location provides the perfect setting for 9th and 10th-grade students to explore their environment. The Academy of Environmental Science Inc’s mission is to provide a quality ecologically based education program through a rigorous and relevant hands-on curriculum for students.

Honors Classes that Connect to Nature

Imagine a school that offers all the courses students need to stay on track of graduation at the honors and AP level.  Then add this: each class is created offering hands-on, project-based, learning opportunities ensuring connections to the real world. Highly qualified subject area specialists guide students and bring the content to life. Students encounter the environment first-hand as they explore local estuaries and rivers by kayak and canoe. Citrus County has one of the few remaining protected coastlines in the state of Florida, with miles of river and aquatic wetlands.  The AES location offers an unmatched experience.

Academy Pool Session SCUBABeginning in August 2018, 70 entering freshmen have the opportunity to become certified PADI SCUBA divers!  This special education is a lifelong gift to these students who become stewards of our incredible nature coast. But more importantly, the training has the great potential to lead to careers in marine environmental science.

Rotarians, Acting for Benefit of Our Kids

This training at school project was the brain child of Tom Gotterup and Mike Engiles. They along with Mary Morgan are all members of the King’s Bay Rotary. Mary owns Crystal River Kayak and Dive Center.  Mike owns Crystal River Watersports dive shop.  King’s Bay Rotary and Homosassa Rotary have each made donations in support of the program. Providing educational opportunities that expand the horizon for local students fits well with the missions and goals of all of the local Rotary Clubs.

Life Changing!

Just think! Students who have SCUBA certification have a great “leg up” in being ready to become marine scientists, professional divers, environmental engineers, rescue divers, and the list goes on. As our concern about the marine environment grows, developing a new generation of young marine environmentalists becomes ever more important. Students in our school system are rarely gifted with opportunities of this nature. Beginning this year, they do have this opportunity. To our knowledge (January 2019), this is the only program of its kind in the Florida public school system.

What it Takes to Introduce SCUBA

Crystal River Kayak and Dive Center and Crystal River Watersports conduct the program at cost for the students of AES. But there are a few hard costs that need funding support: books, admission fees into diving areas, and certification cards. Some of the students can cover these costs; others cannot. Our goal is to insure that each student who is willing to commit the time, energy and dedication to become certified divers can have the opportunity to do so.

You can participate in helping this program. Contact Donna Fletcher at 352-795-8793 or Academy of Environmental Science 12695 W Fort Island Train Crystal River, FL 34429 to ask questions or make a donation.