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Spend a Different Kind of Spring Break on the Coast

Every year, many college students choose to devote their spring breaks to community service and hands-on learning. Activities during this "alternative spring break" can range from social work to environmental projects. Like traditional spring breaks, students usually travel away from home, spend time bonding with fellow students and return home with great stories to share.

Alternative spring breaks are usually university-sponsored, can be subsidized by fundraising efforts and often involve a team-building component. The week is busy, but students go home with many valuable experiences to pass on to their own communities. Here, students have the ability to engage in community service activities while enjoying Florida's wonderful weather and coast, the best of both worlds.

This spring, students from Ohio State University and Ohio Wesleyan University are returning to Tampa Bay to remove invasive exotic plants, such as Brazilian pepper, and to remove debris from spoil islands. When taking a break, they'll be kayaking or snorkeling in the bay and camping for a night on one of the islands.

Meanwhile, University of Georgia students are visiting St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve to plant longleaf pine. They will also perform restoration work on St. Vincent Island in Apalachicola Bay. Work in previous years has included removing old fencing from within the preserve and planting native groundcover.

Removing exotics in Tampa Bay

A spring breaker removes exotics from a spoil island in Tampa Bay.

In previous years, University of Tennessee students have traveled to Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve near St. Augustine to create firebreaks and control an invasive cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum). At Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve near Naples, high school students from Washington State have camped out on one of the Ten Thousand Islands and worked on clean-up activities.

More and more students are visiting Florida on spring break, not just for fun, but to help the community and the environment. Feel free to grab some friends (or come solo) and join in.

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Volunteers at St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve

Volunteers at St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve

Last updated: January 07, 2014

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