Nomination Statement for Sarah Rhodes-Ondi, recipient of the Florida Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s 2019 Outstanding Educator Award
Sarah is a passionate marine ecologist and informal educator with fifteen years of experience connecting youth through adults with primarily Florida ecosystems. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Marine Biology from New College of Florida and a Master’s of Science in Marine Biology from Florida Institute of Technology, with her research interests focusing on the imperiled Indian River Lagoon ecosystem. Sarah has trained thousands of environmental stewards from youth through adults to care for and appreciate wildlife in environmental education programs. She taught the Florida Master Naturalist program for 8 years, Uplands, Wetlands and Coastal modules in addition to school programs, summer camps, and eco-excursions. For all of these programs she designs curriculum and hands-on materials connecting students with Florida wildlife. Through the National Association of Interpretation she is a Certified Interpretive Trainer and Certified Interpretive Guide and uses these skills to train other volunteer and staff nature guides. She has developed effective strategies to train youth in interpretation techniques outdoors and recently presented a webinar for a national audience for NAI that set the standard for adapting training techniques to outdoors and teenage audiences. Her recent career focus is to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) into the Environmental Learning Center’s repeat visitation middle school mentoring, college and high school internship programs to inspire at risk youth through young adults to explore STEAM fields as possible career options. She has designed multiple hands-on science research activities and materials to connect students with real world STEAM careers for these programs specifically focusing on biodiversity, fisheries science and habitat evaluation. Her programs thrive because of the strong collaboration and commitment of her environmental education team and with public and private sector partners. Sarah manages up to $40,000 in environmental education grant funded programs annually. She has been publishing her ecological research and the outcomes of her environmental education programs at the local, regional and national level since 2002.