Local teacher and National Geographic Explorer Alicia “Ali” Pressel received funding from the National Geographic Society for her project, “Connecting Classrooms to Conservation through Citizen Science.” In partnership with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Pressel’s project will engage local youth in learning about environmental science, geography, and conservation biology as “Citizen Scientists.” Pressel will work with Emily Blum, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Educator, who is overseeing the Zoo’s participation as the primary, local stakeholder in the project.
“Northeast Florida has an extraordinary amount of biodiversity,” said Pressel. “Through this project, youth in our community will work alongside scientists and researchers from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens as aquatic ambassadors,” she said. “Students will experience field learning skills and applications as they study water quality along the St. Johns River. They will also study how aquatic health in our community impacts native Florida species, including Florida manatees.”
Pressel is an environmental sciences educator in the Academy of Engineering and Environmental Sciences at Creekside High School and the St. Johns County 2020-2021 District Teacher of the Year. Pressel is also a 2022 NEA Global Learning Fellow, 2021 Grosvenor Teaching Fellow, and a LEED Green Associate with the U.S. Green Building Council.
As an educator, Pressel sponsors an Environmental Club, Geospatial Mapping, and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives including project-based learning and outdoor field studies. As lead teacher in environmental sciences, Pressel designs and curates project-based learning initiatives from grades 9 to 12.
On April 29, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is hosting the City Nature Challenge, and youth in Northeast Florida will have the opportunity to become Citizen Scientists in their community during the event. Participants will collaborate with scientists and community researchers during the City Nature Challenge, a friendly competition among cities around the world.
For four days, partakers are encouraged to use the iNaturalist app to take pictures of wildlife viewed at the events for conservation scientists and researchers to study different species, update distribution ranges, and determine population health. The family-friendly activities include tours, searching for plants and wildlife, and nature trail exploration, to name a few. All activities are free, and RSVPs are required. For more information, and to register for the events, visit the Zoo’s website and RSVP for the City Nature Challenge at https://www.jacksonvillezoo.org/outdoor-explore.
Investing in Kids (INK!) is serving as the fiscal manager for Pressel’s funding, to benefit students and communities in northeast Florida. “We look forward to overseeing the National Geographic Society funding with Ali on innovative projects that positively impact key learning objectives for students,” said Donna Lueders, INK!’s Executive Director.