About Us

About the Friends of the Environmental Studies Center

With funds raised by the Friends, and hours of volunteer work, our Friends group has purchased needed equipment and taxidermy work, funded and founded a native plant butterfly garden, and provided Open-House Saturdays, Breakfast with the Birds, Evenings with Song, and Owl Night-Hikes. An outstanding group of Friends approached the Seminole County School Board and the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners with a presentation that resulted in our new building.

 The Environmental Studies Center is a Seminole County Public Schools Facility in Soldiers Creek Park, part of Spring Hammock Nature Preserve. The building is open during school hours for programs scheduled with Seminole County first and fifth graders in public, private and home schools. It is open to the public some afternoons and on Friends Saturday Open House Events.
 New Environmental Center Building March 2004 

Since it began in 1977, the Center has seen the change from its beginnings in a 1926-era portable building to the modern facility we see now. The focus group has always been two days for fifth grade, but outstanding programs were offered for Pre-K through 12 as well. Over the years, as the school population increased, program offerings were narrowed to only two: the two-day Fifth Grade program — lovingly known as “The MudWalk” — and an exciting one-day program for First Grade.

Award-Winning Environmental Studies Center Programs

 First Grade Students participate in a one-day awareness program featuring Florida plants and animals. In the hands-on Natural History Museum, students experience Florida wildlife through live animals and mounted specimens. Under the direction of the Environmental Studies Center Staff, students are invited to touch a selection of live animals that may include a Florida king snake, a black racer, a red rat snake, a baby alligator, a gopher tortoise, and/or a turtle. Florida fossils, a demonstration bee hive, animal skeleton mounts, skulls, animal tracks, and more are explored during “walk-around” time.

Peek! Animal home in a hollow tree

Tulip Poplar Tree Flower

 First graders take a nature walk to experience a forest. They discover the importance of plants as producers, and the role of leaves. They learn about six native plants and how they are essential to wildlife and important to people. They collect those leaves, matching shape and color. Upon return to the pavilion, they match and tape the leaves to outlines, and do a surprise leaf rubbing to complete a take-home leaf collection. Intertwined throughout the day are first grade Sunshine State Standards in hands-on, real world form.

The Fifth Grade Program is a two-day adventure in five Florida habitats.

Dry Day students investigate soils and trees in the Oak-Palmetto Scrub, the Pine Forest, and the Mixed Hardwood Hammock. They use a compass to follow a Compass Course, learn about native trees, including past and present human use and the value to wildlife. They utilize forest products by making a keepsake “wood cookie” medallion. In the Natural History Museum they learn about mounted specimens of Florida Wildlife, and are invited to hold a snake, touch an alligator, and browse the displays in the museum.

Florida Wildlife in Nature Museum

Look what we found! 

 Wet Day activities stress energy flow and natural cycles—food, water, nutrient, and carbon in their study of two wetland habitats. Students hike a half-mile to a stream where they collect and investigate aquatic life, with attention to adaptations and food chains. The Hydric Hammock investigation (the MudWalk and a wash-off in a stream) is a wetland experience not soon forgotten.

Many fifth grade Sunshine State Standards are addressed, emphasized and introduced in an extremely effective manner. Their adventure can serve as a leaping-off place for further studies back in the classroom.

High Schools take advantage of Saturdays and students with cars. The Lake Brantley Environmental Studies Advanced Placement class meets once a month for field studies. Further outreach to secondary schools is done on Wednesdays with class visits by Center Staff.

Our Plight

The 2010 Florida Legislature drastically reduced funding for Florida Public Schools again. Painful cuts in programs and staff were necessary throughout the Seminole County Public Schools. To keep the Environmental Studies Center open we need the support of the community agail.

Our Community

Hundreds of thousands of Seminole County students, their teachers, and parent chaperones have experienced the educational programs at the Environmental Studies Center. Many are now coming as chaperones or teachers with their own students, carrying on the tradition as they regale the classes with tales of THEIR MudWalk, or their thrill at catching a crayfish, or finding their way with a compass, or their first walk in the woods as a first grader. Some speak of programs no longer offered, citing the magic of their fifth grade overnight camping trip. The Environmental Studies Center Experience is part of the fabric of the community.

When the School Board faced a drastically reduced budget, it was known that the Environmental Studies Center would be affected. A petition was initiated. Within two weeks, there were over 2,000 signatures and heart-felt comments to preserve the Center and its programs. Life-changing experiences were shared. The petition said, “Save the Mud Walk” and the comments roundly supported the thought. Of course, “Mud Walk” is short-speak for the wonderful two-day program outlined above.

As of August, 2008, the petition of almost 2,500 signatures and comments is offlne. Now in the Spring of 2011, the Center needs your support to stay open.


 The Friends of the Seminole County Environmental Studies Center was formed in 1998 “to support the Environmental Studies Center programs, expand and upgrade facilities, and provide planned activities for the public.”
 First Friends’ Open House 1998