BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — A new program at Chocachatti Elementary School in Brooksville will allow students to get hands-on experience helping the environment, specifically their nearby coastlines.

  • Program result of partnerships with UF, Hernando County
  • Chocachatti currently writing grants to obtain necessary equipment
  • More Hernando County stories

“Salt marsh is one of the native plants that we find along our coast,” said Brittany Scharf, with the UF/IFAS Extension office in Hernando County.

This upcoming school year, students at Chocachatti will be studying salt marsh by growing it themselves, all through a partnership with the University of Florida.

“They will use different techniques, like using a refractometer, how to collect data, how to plot that data out on spreadsheets, and make some graphs,” Scharf said. 

The students will then get to plant the marsh they grew on the shoreline towards the end of the school year to replace grass lost by erosion or the removal of invasive species. 

“These grasses help to keep the shoreline from eroding, it helps dissipate energy, it provides a habitat for many of the marine life," Scharf explained.

While UF has participated in programs like this with middle school-age students in the past, this is the first elementary school they’ve partnered with in Hernando County. 

Chocachatti is currently in the process of writing grants to obtain all the equipment they need and turning one classroom into a research lab.

“They’ll have the opportunity to realize this is an area that needs attention and needs some awareness, and because of that they’ll be able to make a difference,” said Chocachatti Elementary School Principal Lara Silva.

“If they want to enter into a science field, it gives them a little peak into what kind of data collection they might have to do,” Scharf added.

Also new this year, UF will be working with Chocachatti students to study micro plastics in the water. The data the students help gather will then go into a statewide database.