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Gator Sand Mine Insect Hotel

April 12, 2019.

Gator Sand Mine Collaborates with Community to Provide Outdoor Learning Opportunities

The Gator Sand Mine Environmental Education Program was developed in 2008 to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to learning and producing meaningful habitat-based educational opportunities, that benefit hundreds of local students annually.

A traditional school curriculum separates learning into distinct school subjects. While this can be useful for teaching various components in the real world, learning and application of these disciplines do not occur in a vacuum. For this reason, the Gator Sand Mine Environmental Education Program was developed in 2008 to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to learning through STEM education. Teaching STEM in an integrated manner has been shown to improve student academic achievement, motivation to learn and self-efficacy. In addition, students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting can thrive when learning shifts to an integrated outdoor STEM experience. Many students demonstrated improvements in reading, writing, math, science and social studies, as well as attendance, behaviour, thinking skills, interpersonal abilities, engagement and enthusiasm for learning.

CEMEX employees at the Gator Sand Mine collaborate with local educators, administrators and environmental experts to provide outdoor learning opportunities based on the site’s upland and wetland habitats. The site is located within the Green Swamp, an important ecosystem between Tampa and Orlando, designated as an area of critical state concern in central Florida. With partner input, the CEMEX team developed a comprehensive place-based curriculum that aligns with the Common Core State Standards (an educational initiative in the U.S. of academic standards in mathematics and english language arts/literacy).

Hundreds of students, educators and other guests from the community visit the Gator Sand Mine each year to participate in their educational programs. Beforehand, the CEMEX team works with visiting teachers to select the activities that will best meet the needs of their students and curriculum. Some of the multi-disciplinary lessons include tasking students with activities from established curricula like Project WET (a water education curriculum for teachers to explain water resources to children and youth), Flying WILD (a migratory bird focused curriculum for U.S. middle schools) and Project Learning Tree (an environmental education curriculum used in 50 U.S. states and several other countries).

In 2018, the Wildlife Habitat Council launched the first ever international design and build contest for bug hotels, which inspired the Gator Sand Mine to create an insect hotel to provide valuable habitats for bugs and to add to their existing education programs.

The Insect hotel is roughly 48 inches in height, 40 inches wide, and 48 inches in depth. The materials used included reclaimed wood pallets, pine cones, Spanish moss, broken pieces of landscaping bricks, decaying wood, green foam blocks with holes and shattered pieces of flower pots. Florida has close to 700 common bugs and insects. Residents include moths, beetles, weevils, Sweet Bees, American Bumble Bee and spiders. CEMEX plans to install Insect Hotels at several more of their operations in Florida to inspire visitors to create habitats for insects at their schools or homes.