Science with a Side of Fun – The Mosaic Coastal Education Center

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Content

The Mosaic Company is well-known for its phosphate and potash businesses. These 2 substances, which are used in fertilizers, “help the world grow the food it needs” – an important mission in a world of 7 billion people. Many people also know that the Mosaic Company is a past winner of the Sustainable Business Awards here in Tampa Bay.

The Mosaic Company runs a Coastal Education Center.
The Mosaic Company runs a Coastal Education Center.

Less well-known, but no less important is Mosaic’s Coastal Education Center in Tampa Bay. Located in Fiddler’s Cove at the mouth of the Alafia River, the Center is a hidden gem celebrating its 10th year in the community.

Learning about science while having fun

In 2015, some 1,100 4th grade students from Hillsborough and Manatee counties will visit the Center for hands-on learning about the environment. The Center’s location in an estuary (a transition zone between a river and the sea) makes it the perfect place to experience nature hikes, seine netting, crab hunts, a microscope lab, water quality testing, bird watching and much more. For many students, it’s a brand new experience in their own backyard.

Fiddle crabs thrive at Mosaic's Coastal Education Center
Fiddler crabs thrive at Mosaic’s Coastal Education Center

Trained Mosaic employees volunteer to talk to the students about the estuary. They cover a 7-chapter curriculum in a day, teaching students to identify different kinds of crabs, fish, snails and mangroves. Indeed, Fiddler’s Cove is named for the many fiddler crabs (pictured) that thrive along its banks.

The day also includes a fossil identification activity that follows a lesson about the food chain and a discussion about phosphate.  They talk about the fact that industry and nature can coexist.

Lasting benefits to the community

The benefits of this Coastal Education Center go far beyond what the students learn in a day.

  • Mosaic’s “outdoor classroom” builds an appreciation of nature where students can see, touch, feel and smell the world around them in new and exciting ways.
  • Research shows that exposure to nature benefits kidsphysical and mental health.
  • The students learn about nature from a local company. That helps students bridge the often false divide between nature and business.

So hats off to the Mosaic Company for bringing nature “to life” for our students!