Florida Water Warriors bring underprivileged kids on the water to get a firsthand experience of marine biology

By Sydney Preston

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” -Baba Dioum

The Florida Water Warriors were founded on this environmental quote regarding learning about and growing love for the environment around you.

Florida Water Warriors is a family-owned nonprofit based in St. Augustine, Fla. where the company takes out under-privileged children and teaches them about the ocean.

“We want to provide eco education to all. No matter the age,” Kristie Corrigan the Educational Director for Florida Water Warriors said. “We want to keep that cost low so that it is accessible to everyone. That has been our mission since the start.”

The nonprofit is giving kids the chance to have field experience outside the classroom walls.

“When we go out, we observe wildlife, we obtain water samples from our designated testing spots and we collect a plankton sample,” Corrigan said.

The science that the kids are learning on these trips is not only helping them but helping the environment in a plethora of ways.

The data that is collected goes to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There other scientists compare the data and can begin testing hypothesis and making claims about the state of our waters.

“Every student that has come on the tours over the last three years has helped me graph data of the water temperature, salinity level, PH level also the wildlife over different seasons. The kids are like little marine biologists and their work is actually helping bigger scientists,” Corrigan said.

There is an educational gap in the world. The schools or families that have money are able to take their students to see wildlife or on educational excursions. However, the families and schools that don’t have the means to do that don’t get that level of educational advancement.

“Think of it this way, do you remember what you learned in fifth grade? Probably not. Do you remember the field trip you went on? Probably yes,” Corrigan said.

This is where Florida Water Warriors comes in and why they were founded. Learning in a classroom and learning out on the field are two very different things.

Photo courtesy of Florida Water Warriors.

Jessica Jadick is the owner of the nonprofit and Florida Water Tours. She wanted people to have the chance to learn about our oceans no matter their situation.

“Florida Water Tours has the dolphin tours and the sunset tours for tourists and they will donate part of their ticket proceeds into Florida Water Warriors which allows us to bring out the school kids for either a really, really low cost or for free,” she said.

The goal is to start to close that educational gap by bringing out the students in the community that may not have been able to come out of that boat because of funding.

Corrigan began her teaching experience in a Title 1 school in Washington D.C. where she taught language arts in K-2.

Seeing the kids having this disadvantage inspired her to do more outside of the classroom. She moved down to Florida with her husband and taught both third and fourth grade in St. Johns County.

“My husband’s family owns Florida Water Tours and they wanted to start getting involved with the education side. So, I started to help on the side to develop, create and teach curriculum,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan and the family decided that they really wanted to grow the educational aspect of tours. She made the decision to leave the classroom and took this role as the educational director never looked back.

“You know what? If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be living in Florida teaching marine science on a boat, I would have believed it,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Florida Water Warriors.

As a kid marine biology stood out to her but she felt more called to go into education. Now she is doing both with her family by her side.

The best part of her job is seeing the spark that students get when they are out on the water. They finally see what they are learning and why it is so important.

“These students are seeing in real life the wildlife and how they are impacted by the garbage floating in the water. They yell to me to pick up the trash so it won’t hurt the dolphins. They are seeing it and so they are caring,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan reminisces on one of her students who was not at all interested in being on the tour. By the end of the excursion that same student went up to her and announced that she would be taking a marine biology course in the upcoming semester because she had gotten so inspired.

“I feel like the marine science version of Mrs. Frizzle,” Corrigan said smiling.

Educators shape the lives of students every day and according to Corrigan we should be giving kids access to all outlets to see what gives them that spark.

Photo courtesy of Florida Water Warriors.

“Allow kids to create. Allow them to explore and help foster their independence. Don’t just lock them into one thing, let them have all of these experiences because you never know where it is going to lead,” Carrigan said.

Florida Water Warriors is giving kids that access to experience something that they may never have gotten the chance to explore.

“Starting water warriors really provided an outlet for the local schools and groups to have a field experience that they wouldn’t get in the classroom. Students might learn about the ocean in their biology unit but that doesn’t mean that the students who live twenty miles from the ocean are actually getting to experience the water,” Corrigan said. “We are here to give those under-privileged kids that experience.”

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