JULY 2023

Stella Maris Environmental Research located in Melbourne Beach, Florida is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization focused on bringing attention and solutions to current environmental issues to children through education, conservation and research.  One of the programs that has been supported by Variety of Florida for many consecutive years is Wesley’s Island Eco Camp at Stella Maris…  

Wesley's Island Eco Camp is an immersive learning program in which youth are engaged in environmental studies, restoration and stewardship of the Indian River Lagoon.

This summer of 2023, Variety kids attended a week-long camp experience at Wesley's Island where they participated in multiple hands-on activities and programs!

The Camp's goal is to inspire underserved and underrepresented youth to pursue the world of the outdoors and critical ecosystems like waterways and feel empowered to pursue a future career in STEM. Throughout history, some of the greatest advancements in technology came from underrepresented minds. IN STEM fields we want to inspire young people to follow their science dreams and explore the coastal outdoors with curiosity and courage.

The first day of camp includes safety awareness training and then onto Wesley’s Island via a pontoon boat captained by the carefree boat club. On the island, an invertebrate dissection will be completed along with a discussion of research projects, lunch, exploration and a sustainable fishing lab where the youth are taught how to use, rig up and care for fishing gear. They are given all the poles and tackle needed to fish individually long after camp ends.

The second day is full of fun at the Dynamite Point in the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. The morning is filled with Paddleboarding Adventures with guided tours, On Local Time Paddle Tours, as well as time documenting interesting finds in a nature notebook. Nature notebooks are a way in which campers will record any intriguing things they find and they will use this book the whole week and take them home as well. Documenting all of the amazing finds of the week is a skill that is fun as well as useful in the science world. The afternoon includes a Sea Turtle Biology Lab and a Research Project Design.

The third day is back on Wesley’s Island where campers Snorkel the shallows using marine Invertebrates IDs and participate in a Population Density/Sea Grass Lab and Island Survey. The afternoon includes an oyster colony lab and phytoplankton collection.

The fourth day includes understanding data collection, Fish Identification, the scientific method, seine netting, history of native plants, as well as a seagrass survey using transects at the shoreline.

The fifth day starts by the Stan Blum Boat Ramp where campers depart for a guided kayaking adventure with Motorized Kayaks, experience lunch in mangroves and kayaking back for their Solar Oven Lab experience.

"We cannot hold such a wonderful camp without the support of Orlando's Variety Children's Charity, and we are incredibly grateful for all of your generosity." - Ashley B. Chelberg, Wesley Eco Camp