Hands-on Learning for All Ages at CEMEX’s Center Hill Mine
July 7, 2017.
The long-standing partnership between the CEMEX Center Hill Mine and the Sumter School District provides strong educational outcomes that align with the Florida Sunshine Standards
Conservation education programs benefit greatly from well-developed and integrated partnerships with local schools. These partnerships not only facilitate meaningful educational outcomes for students, but can connect the site—and the company—to the local community in a significant way.
The team at CEMEX’s Center Hill Mine has developed a strong, long-standing, integrated partnership with the local school systems in and around Sumter County, Fla., where the mine is located. The Center Hill Mine is comprised of a 996-acre active rock quarry and includes 229 acres of actively-managed habitats like lakes, wetlands and forest.
Since 2006, the team has hosted classes of fourth- and sixth-grade students from local schools. The curriculum begins with a mine tour to provide a context of where they are in relation to factors such as habitat, geology and site operations. Students then participate in activities that correlate with Florida Sunshine Standards, Common Core, and the Next Generation Science Standards. These activities allow students to engage with the site’s wetland habitat and resident species, which include great blue herons, sandhill cranes, osprey, American coots, wood ducks, cormorants, anhingas and frogs.
The elementary school program consists of fourth graders visiting the site over a three-week period in October and November, with all students participating in a set of four activities focused on recycling, runoff and erosion, water conservation and the food chain. Sixth graders visit the site over a three-day period in March, with students choosing which two of the six available activities on water quality that they will participate in. To ensure that its educational goals are met, the team coordinates with teachers to evaluate the learning impact of the activities, conducting pre-tests on-site and post-tests in the classroom that assess factors such as the desired vocabulary students should have learned during their visits.
Five years ago, the CEMEX team expanded its educational opportunities to the AP Environmental Science class at South Sumter High School. Curriculum is focused on teaching students about the mine-permitting process from start to finish, and how mining and environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand. The students, who dubbed themselves “APES” (for AP Environmental Science), go on field trips and attend on-site trainings at the Center Hill Mine and other nearby CEMEX facilities, such as CEMEX’s Brooksville South Operations, where students viewed a blast of explosives used to free aggregate. CEMEX also provides a variety of in-classroom guest speakers, including geologists and hydrogeologists, lawyers, public relations staff, and archaeologists. The curriculum culminates in March when the APES present their mine-permitting plan at a mock community meeting and mock permitting meeting with the Board of County Commissioners, who are represented by teachers and at least one actual commissioner.
Students from other grades in the local school systems are also given opportunities to participate in the site’s education program. The site’s annual Earth Day event, started 10 years ago, includes over 35 educational booths focused on habitat and the environment, which are led by local schools, community partners and government agencies.
In April 2017, the Center Hill Mine hosted their 10th Annual Earth Day Celebration. More than 1,000 people were on hand to enjoy educational booths, tree-plantings, mine tours, a fossil dig and other family-friendly activities.
The Center Hill Mine has earned Conservation Certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) since 2008. In 2010, the Center Hill Quarry was awarded the Corporate Lands for Learning (CLL) of the Year Award from WHC, which is designed to recognize a site for outstanding environmental education, stewardship and voluntary employee efforts. Furthermore, the site was recognized as a WHC Gold program in 2016 and featured as a Corporate Conservation Success Story on the WHC website.
Through these programs and partnerships, the Center Hill Mine has established itself as a vital member of the community, producing meaningful educational opportunities benefiting hundreds of local students.
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