June 12, 2002 - Lakeland Ledger: Senegal RPCV Dawn Spieth runs centers for science-based environmental education

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 06 June 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: June 12, 2002 - Lakeland Ledger: Senegal RPCV Dawn Spieth runs centers for science-based environmental education

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Senegal RPCV Dawn Spieth runs centers for science-based environmental education

Read and comment on this story from the Lakeland Ledger on Senegal RPCV Dawn Spieth and her new job turning the Street Nature Center and its companion Babson Park Nature Center into centers for science-based environmental education. at:

Audubon Centers Encourage Public to Visit *

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Audubon Centers Encourage Public to Visit

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

By TOM PALMER The Ledger

Dawn Spieth was trimming a saw palmetto in the butterfly garden at the Street Nature Center near Winter Haven.

She wasn't doing any radical pruning, just enough to preserve the clearance in the foot path.

Spieth is the new naturalist-educator that Audubon of Florida has hired to turn the Street Nature Center and its companion Babson Park Nature Center into centers for science-based environmental education.

She has already organized summer educational programs for children and has ideas that will involve spreading environmental knowledge, recruiting volunteers and turning the Audubon centers into community focal points.

Much of that will involve getting the community to the centers for environmental programs, guided walks or simply picnicking or wildlife watching.

That's why the trails have to be in good shape.

Spieth, 27, has a good background for this undertaking.

After receiving a bachelor of science degree in natural resources and wildlife from Ohio State University, she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, did federal marine science research from fishing boats off Hawaii and worked in an environmental education center in Ohio before taking this job, which she began earlier this year.

Although others in Audubon certainly lobby and involve themselves in politics, that's not what the nature centers are going to be about.

"We're going to be offering education, hands-on activities and exploring nature to show how everything fits together, but we're just interested in giving people information, not trying to persuade them," she said. "They can come up with their own opinions."

Programs will be offered at both centers, whose surroundings reflect the variety of natural habitats in Polk County. The Street Nature Center is in a wooded area on a lake. The Babson Park Nature Center is in what's left of a local sandhill community.

Spieth also hopes to use Audubon's local sanctuaries -- a 20-acre island in Lake Hamilton, a 13-acre wooded area near Lake Pierce and a 422-acre former phosphate mine near an industrial area by Saddle Creek -- as sites for environmental education or field trips.

Meanwhile, she wants to reach out to the community.

One way will be to offer a series of family oriented nature programs to the community and to offer environmental education to public, private and home-school students.

The centers also will be working with local Girl Scout groups to help them earn badges.

Another way is to seek volunteers who will become involved with the center.

She said Audubon of Florida, which is a nonprofit organization, depends on volunteers to do its work.

One of the big projects will involve removing exotics such as melaleuca, Brazilian pepper and bamboo from the 42-acre Street Nature Center grounds and replacing them with native vegetation under a management plan that's being developed.

"People can get exercise, be out in nature and do community service," she said.

Spieth said she plans to publicize the Audubon activities through newspaper articles, radio and television spots and brochures placed in public buildings such as libraries and recreation centers.

For more information on local Audubon programs, contact Spieth at the nature centers. Street Nature Center's phone number is 863-324-7304. Babson Park Nature Center's number is 863-638-1355.

Also, check out Audubon of Florida's Web site at http://www.audubonofflorida.org

AUDUBON SANCTUARIES In addition to Polk's two Audubon nature centers, Audubon of Florida owns three other local sanctuaries.

The newest is the 20-acre Sims Island in 2,162-acre Lake Hamilton. This island attracts wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl. Native Americans lived on the island in the 19th century.

Audubon acquired the island in 1999.

In addition, Audubon of Florida owns the Saddle Creek sanctuary, a 422-acre former phosphate mine north of Maine Avenue on Saddle Creek east of Lakeland.

The preserve was established in 1962 through a land trade for the property that is now occupied by Saddle Creek Park.

A recent 40-acre donation to increase the sanctuary to its present size will allow better access to the property.

The third sanctuary is the 13-acre Mary Male Sanctuary in the Timberlane area near Lake Pierce north of Lake Wales.

Gordon and Mary Male donated the land for the Mary Male Wildlife Sanctuary to Audubon of Florida in 1969 as a draw for Gordon Male's development of the Timberlane subdivision, which was advertised in Audubon magazine and drew many Audubon members to the area.

Ridge Audubon and the Timberlane Homeowners' Association manage the property.

Tom Palmer can be reached at tom.palmer@theledger.com or 863-802-7535.

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