Ecological Peace through Education: Community Unity with Students Preserving Biodiversity
A principal in the Indian River County School system, Bonnie Swanson obtained a grant to develop a unique environmental program for her students. Bonnie envisioned a program through which children could not only learn the importance of preserving endangered species, but also take direct steps to do so.
Through Bonnie’s leadership, these nine- and ten-year-olds purchased seventeen residential lots to create a nature reserve. The children raised $250,000 through grants and donations, and by taking on various part-time jobs. In 2003, Bonnie and her students decided to call their project, ”From Us…To You…Forever.” The children settled on this name because their group placed a conservation easement on all the purchased properties. The land now exists as a nature reserve in perpetuity. The Pelican Island Audubon Society serves as Trustee of the land and Treasurer of the project. In the near future, a small park in the easement area will feature kiosks describing the children’s achievement. A designated area will feature all of the children’s handprints as well.
Bonnie united diverse elements of the community to back the project. This included groups that might not normally collaborate, such as environmentalists and local businesses. The local school board, county commission, and the Sebastian City Council all provided crucial help and advisement. A local engineering firm and title company donated surveying expertise, and two real estate brokers helped to purchase each lot. Even the national government played a role. Interior Secretary Babbit and the U.S. Representative made several visits in shows of support. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave input to the scientific advisement of local biologists. The Indian River County Conservation Manager helped develop a long-range plan for the property.
Bonnie and the children succeeded in creating a nature preserve that will last into perpetuity. They also generated national press, as PBS, ABC, and Linda Ellerby of Nickelodeon featured stories on the children’s accomplishment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Florida honored the project as well. But the greatest reward is in what Bonnie Swanson helped teach a new generation: No matter how small a group or young the individual, by uniting together, young people can change the world.
This was formerly titled the “Bonnie Swanson
Story” on the following website:
From Us…To You…Forever (from Volvo for Life web site: