Parents, your kids have options when it comes to which high school to attend. The proliferation of magnet programs and choice programs in South Florida's public schools has rendered the school boundary an anachronism of a bygone era. If you like the neighborhood school, by all means, take advantage of it. However, students who have specific interests should shop around for the best fit.
A passion for the environment? If your child has it, the Environmental Science and Everglades Restoration Magnet Program at South Plantation High School is an attractive option.
"It's multi-faceted, it’s a rigorous science program with a heavy emphasis on research, community service, and field experience," said program coordinator JoAnn Cantlupe. "And they also really have to love the outdoors, not mind getting wet or dirty, or being out on a lake in a canoe or slogging through the Everglades up to their knees."
The scope of the program is wide and deep. Students study the fragile Everglades ecosystem and the way water flows through it to Florida Bay. They learn the importance of conserving South Florida's environment in a variety of ways. The marine science course teaches kids how pollution from the land impacts the coral reefs and how climate change is harming the oceans. The students maintain several saltwater and freshwater aquariums, along with aquaculture tanks which include crayfish and turtles.
The school has a menagerie of farm animals. Along with learning animal care, the students see how agriculture can impact the environment. The common theme in the magnet program permeates every class. In engineering, the students design and build solar powered cars and drones. What do drones have to do with saving habitats?
"Well the drones have cameras on them, and the drones are flying over agricultural lands and taking pictures," said Cantlupe, explaining that working with FIU scientists, South Plantation's kids use their drones to look for pest infestations, invasive species, stuff like that. Every facet of the program is hands-on.
"Beyond what they're learning in the classroom, they're actually outdoors, getting their hands in the mix of what it's like to preserve the Everglades, or to preserve our mangroves and really developing an appreciation for how important those water sources are to our entire ecosystem," said principal Christy Henschel.
While students in one class are cultivating native plants, their colleagues are growing plants to attract butterflies. They take regular field trips to local parks, they monitor the amount of energy generated by a solar panel array, and they constantly try to improve the design of their solar car for competitions.
"Everything we learn in biology, chemistry, physics, we apply it here with the solar car," said student Frank Monterrosa.
The magnet program has more options within itself than some schools have on their entire campuses. Henschel says she's most proud that graduates become stewards of the environment, and they go on to educate others on the importance of conservation.
The deadline for magnet program registration in Broward County Public Schools is February 10th.