Whale swimming - photo by Guille Pozzi - photo by Guille Pozzi

Learning at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center

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“I can’t believe I held a snake!”  

“The longleaf pine trees are awesome.” 

“I can’t wait to come back!” 

These are just a few of the comments from fourth and seventh grade students excited to be visiting the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in the Florida Panhandle. The mission of the center is to educate students and other visitors about the importance of biodiversity, promote sustainability, and encourage the conservation, preservation and restoration of ecosystems. We want to bring out every students “biophilia, or love all living things.  

The center is named for world-renowned biologist E.O. Wilson, who is leading the fight for the preservation of biodiversity. The Biophilia Center wants students and visitors to realize what they have in their own backyards, and how important these things are for the survival of our planet as a whole. It’s all intertwined.  

The center provides the ultimate outdoor, hands-on environmental education. We welcome students from an average of 41 schools per year, which equates to over 6,000 youngsters visiting for either two or four days.  

We offer over 20 different programs that immerse students in the local ecosystems. They include many programs to engage and interest youth, including water quality testing, dip-netting, land surveying, a gopher tortoise home range lesson, bear lesson, skull lesson and wildlife encounters. We have over 40 wildlife ambassadors, including two bobcats, a red-tailed hawk, two eagles, a skunk, an alligator snapping turtle, gopher tortoises and several snakes. The center also has over 700 pages of curriculum for teachers to use in their classrooms pre- and post-visit. 

When students have opportunities to read about a subject, and then touch, smell and observe that subject, they never forget it. They want to tell others about their newfound knowledge. That’s the complete learning experience. It doesn’t get any better than that. 

The E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center just concluded its seventh year. Each year we try to improve our product and grow as a team. This year we will initiate many new programs, such as summer day camps, college/university partnerships, public days at the center and our Naturalists Outdoors program. We have also started a membership opportunity for people who want to be part of and support the center. This past April, we had our first annual 5K run, with over 240 participants. We now offer several avenues and opportunities for people to get involved financially and through volunteering.  

Saving biodiversity sounds like an uphill battle, but here at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, we are making a difference locally and regionally in a fun, effective way. Come for a visit and discover your own biophilia.   

All photos courtesy of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center. Photos are copyright protected and may not be reproduced without permission.

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Paul Arthur