Various reptiles, a law enforcement K-9 and nearly 400 eager students took over the capitol courtyard Tuesday March 12. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) provided a glimpse of the Florida outdoors to students and others at the agency’s “Creating the Next Generation That Cares” event in downtown Tallahassee.

The courtyard between the old and new Florida capitols was transformed for a few hours, housing a variety of interactive displays to inspire youth to enjoy Florida’s natural resources and learn to protect them.

“We were very excited to host this event as part of our continued commitment to help create the next generation that cares about conservation in Florida,” said Nick Wiley, executive director of the FWC.

Increasingly, today’s children are disconnected from the outdoors. They devote nearly eight hours a day to entertainment media and media multitasking, according to studies, while the number of youth who spend time in traditional outdoor activities continues to decline dramatically.

“By encouraging young people to participate in fun, exciting and interactive outdoor experiences, Wiley said, “we hope they will be motivated to care for the amazing fish and wildlife resources that help fuel Florida’s economy.”

At the event, displays included a touch tank of marine life; an activity to give kids a chance to pretend to be a bear for a little while and search for berries and bugs to eat; and a booth for kids to learn how to cast with a fishing pole.

“FWC biologists and volunteers helped kids learn the names of bird and animal species that are native to Florida and create bird masks to mimic their favorites,” Wiley said.

The students got to see a baby alligator and other reptiles and amphibians up close, as an expert stood by to answer their questions.

“There were even a few of our FWC officers there,” Wiley said. “They brought some of the specialized vehicles and boats they use to patrol, protect and preserve Florida’s woods and waters. One of the FWC’s K-9 teams also demonstrated how it helps with different cases.”

Logo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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