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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

PIER Program Provides Environmental Education for Students

The PIER Program engaged 1,266 students the past school year in 32 field trips to explore the Sarasota Bay watershed. There were also 179 adults who learned with the students. PIER field trips are organized by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) in partnership with Around the Bend Nature Tours.

PIER is an acronym for Protection, Involvement, Education and Restoration. The field trips provide hands-on learning focused on water sampling, water quality testing, conservation, and the identification of plant and animal species. Some of the field trip destinations include Ken Thompson Park, Oscar Scherer State Park, Emerson Point Preserve, Joan Durante Park, and Osprey’s Bay Preserve in cooperation with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

SBEP launched PIER in 2003. The program has engaged more than 38,000 students in public and private schools, as well as home schooled students throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. PIER also includes full-day science teacher training workshops at New College of Florida. The workshops are led by Sandra Gilchrist, PhD, and focus on three areas: Introduction to Estuaries, Endangered Coasts, and Waves and Currents.

Since its inception 26 years ago, SBEP has taken an active role in environmental education by publishing reports, developing curricula for schools, and initiating hands-on activities that engage adults and students of all ages.


The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is dedicated to restoring the area’s greatest natural asset, Sarasota Bay. Its unique program strives to improve water quality, increase habitat, and enhance the natural resources of the area for use and enjoyment by the public. Sarasota Bay is one of 28 protected estuaries in the U.S. The SBEP was founded in 1989, and its partners include Sarasota County, Manatee County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Natural Awakenings of Sarasota August 2020 Digital Edition


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