Get your Feet Wet: Educational Boat Trips


BY SHANNON BLANKINSHIP, Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper


Event: St. Johns Riverkeeper 2-Hour Holiday Boat Cruise

Date/Time: December 5, 2015, 10:00 a.m. – Noon

Location: Friendship Fountain, 1015 Museum Cir., 32207

Join us as we venture into the Ortega River and learn about the issues and ecology affecting our waterways. Wear your favorite holiday sweater. Holiday snacks will be served.



Something changes when you’re on the water. Unfortunately, many people don’t have the opportunity to experience our waterways up close and personal. This school year, St. Johns Riverkeeper, through a partnership with the Duval County School Board, is providing 2-hour educational boat trips on the St. Johns River for approximately 4,500 Title I 5th-grade students. By getting more students and teachers onto the water, they hope to establish a foundation where it is easier to understand the critical issues affecting our waterways and have a deeper respect and appreciation for the river.

It is difficult for a science teacher to discuss aquatic ecology with students who have never been on the water. Describing how the manatees need submerged grasses and how salinity impacts the blue crab is a foreign language to anyone who only knows our river from driving over a bridge. For being the River City, it is alarming how many residents only experience our waterways from a distance, where it is impossible to notice the intricate relationships that and diversity of wildlife that exist. How can you truly understand scientific processes and your role in the ecosystem when you’ve never stuck a toe in the water or experienced it first-hand?

We aren’t talking about everyone. The marinas, yacht clubs, boat ramps, sailing teams, and rowing associations are evidence that an active water-based community exists in northeast Florida. Knowing how many waterways exist in our region and how important they are to our identity and well-being is what makes it so eye-opening to find that a vast majority of residents have never been on the water. However, that is our reality.

While on board the Jacksonville River Taxi, students rotate through a series of water-based activities. Students are learning to use water quality monitoring equipment, gather and interpret water quality data, record observational data on manatees and dolphins in the St. Johns River, and examine river plants and animals for adaptations that enable them to thrive in the river ecosystem. The two-hour trip includes water testing, aquatic observation, and ecosystem discussions. Each activity correlates to state standards and focuses on river science.

The trip concludes with students taking the River Friendly pledge. This pledge asks kids to help protect the St. Johns River by conserving water, keeping trash out of our river, helping parents to use water wisely in the home and yard, cleaning up after pets, and being mindful of how our actions impact the St. Johns River.

Providing resources to help educate our youth about our waterways is important.  Even more important is providing on-the-water learning experiences with the river in order to help kids understand the consequences of our actions and develop a strong water ethic in our community.   So, what are you waiting for?  Get out on the water, get your feet wet, and bring your kids along for the valuable life lessons that are certain to come with those enriching experiences.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.

april, 2022