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EPA Awards Over $97K to Nature’s Academy

BRADENTON (May 22, 2018) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program awarded $97,808 to Nature’s Academy in Bradenton, FL to support and promote their STEM Literacy Project program that reaches every fifth grade student in the Manatee County School District at no cost to the schools or families.

Since 2009, Nature’s Academy has served the local community through the STEM Literacy Project. This year alone, that reach has resulted in:

  • Educating more than 2,300 local students on the importance of water quality and watershed ecology.
  • Removing 220 pounds of litter from local shorelines.
  • Enhancing STEM literacy, as 100% of schools show learning gains based on pre and post-test data.
  • Distributing 2,400 reusable water bottles for students to use throughout the program and beyond.
  • Indirectly reaching over 23,000 community members through Citizen Science and school conservation projects.

Students from Manatee County show off their new reusable water bottles! A souvenir given for free when they attend a STEM Literacy Project program.

This project launched in 2009 because Nature’s Academy and the Manatee County School District were seeking to improve the standardized test scores for fifth graders within the district. According to the 2017 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT), 57% of Manatee County fifth graders are failing science. Hoping to improve this statistic, the STEM Literacy Project is continued today. Through this project, underserved fifth grade students are given the opportunity to attend an outdoor marine science based field trip that they otherwise would not have been able to. During the program, students transform into citizen scientists by collecting and recording real sea grass biodiversity and water quality data. Students also learn about the natural world around them while participating in guided nature walks and a conservation activity where they collect litter from the beaches along Anna Maria Island.

This two year collaboration with the EPA will fund new equipment to enhance the “STEM” and Citizen Science portions of this fifth grade program. This includes the purchase of digital microscopes, new water quality equipment and tablets for students to use in the field. With new equipment and funding for an already beneficial program, Nature’s Academy will be able to extend their reach and inspire more future stewards of the natural world!

Students show off their catch from the sea grass
beds along Coquina Bayside – decorator crabs!

This year’s STEM Literacy Project student survey results showed that:

  • 89% of students believe the health of the local watershed and natural habitats is extremely important to their community.
  • 80% of students learned something new from their field trip that helped them at school.
  • 78% have begun to litter less and pick up trash more.
  • 75% feel that they can be a part of improving the world around them because of their Nature’s Academy field trip.
  • 86% of students believed that their Nature’s Academy field trip was a positive experience.

“A remarkable moment occurs when a child connects with nature. Children want to learn. They are eager for responsibility. They flourish when they can be actively involved. A meaningful outdoor experience can transform a child into a lifelong environmental ambassador. This is the heart of the STEM Literacy Project at Nature’s Academy.”
– Dana Pounds, Executive Director

Through these life altering experiences, students are taught about the importance of preserving our environment while learning important life lessons about teamwork and never giving up. As citizen scientists, they directly contribute to positive change for their data is uploaded to Nature’s Academy’s Citizen Science Database, an online server that shares water quality data with people from all over the world. Students return to class with a better understanding of science, a greater appreciation for the environment, and a reusable water bottle to further instill a sense of stewardship. A truly remarkable cause.

Our mission at Nature’s Academy is to enhance STEM literacy and to foster environmental stewardship in our community and beyond. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Bradenton, FL, Nature’s Academy is always looking for volunteers or individuals that want to support our educational programming. To learn more about Nature’s Academy and our outdoor “edventures,” please contact us at, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook! For further information about the Gulf of Mexico Program, visit the EPA website.

View an important video message from our founder Dana Lawson


View an important video message from our founder Dana Lawson