The ELC is open 7 days a week
Mon-Fri: 8 AM - 5 PM
Sat-Sun: 8 AM - 4 PM
Just think of the ELC as an extension of your own backyard!
April Greetings from ELC
On April 1, I celebrate my three-year anniversary leading this important and dynamic organization! 

We have accomplished a lot together. 

We have built a strong team of staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors and Board Members. These fine folks are some of the most dedicated professionals I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. 

We gave this special campus a much deserved sprucing up. We replaced three roofs, two sets of stairs, and a raised boardwalk; renovated the Discovery Station and restrooms; removed a cottage that had black mold; and created a beautiful lagoon-side picnic area complete with a native plant walk and a mural fence around the maintenance area. We created the Sustainability Walk around the pond; added interpretive signage and outdoor art; replaced boardwalk planks and pressure cleaned and painted the entire east boardwalk and are just finishing the west (miles of boardwalk!). We replaced our signage on 510 and have many other new campus signs going up in the next few weeks. We rebuilt two osprey perches and added two live osprey cams. A generous donor provided us with a new commercial lawnmower! It takes a lot of hard work to keep this campus looking good for our guests and we love doing it. 

Our strong focused team created vision and culture statements, strategic plans, a business plan, a case for support, and a detailed employee handbook and operations manual to support our incredible Master Plan. Our preparedness was rewarded with a tremendous gift allowing us to build the first phase of our Master Plan which will be unveiled this month. The Thomas R. Schidel Education and Event Pavilion will be the site of a wide variety of community festivals, educational events, and entertainment experiences. 

Our adult programs have blossomed. We have wellness offerings of Qi Gong, yoga, walking meditation, forest therapy and more because the actualization of a healthy environment and healthy humans are undeniably interconnected. We created our Eco-Action Society, an ongoing adult community committed to learning more about the natural world and how to help protect and restore it. Our Master Naturalist classes allow for more in-depth learning opportunities. We host book groups and Wellness in the Wild adventures. We added two nature art galleries that rotate every two months and our artist talks and meet and greet cocktail/music events are a big hit. Just another way for us to connect to nature and enjoy outdoor events together. 

Our Eco Tours via pontoon, canoe, kayak, bike trails or walking areas on conservation areas are engaging and restorative for all ages. We gave our pontoon boat a facelift two years ago with new seats and canopy top and added a ramp for handicap access. We replaced our canoes, kayaks, paddles, and vests with beautiful new ones. 

Our school district programs, as well as our school break camps are thriving. We created a new homeschool Lagoon Academy, which is now up to three weekly cohorts and it has been a phenomenal success. We re-energized and expanded our Little Wonders nature playgroup for preschoolers. We have revamped our GreenTeens program and are excited about our new Youth Environmental Leaders Corps (Y-ELC). Our work and collaboration with many youth organizations and schools in the community continues. 

Our ELC bridges out into the community are vast. We partner with businesses, nonprofits, other environmental organizations, service clubs, faith-based groups etc. Our membership and visibility in the community has certainly grown. We created and facilitate the Nonprofit Leaders Coalition for IRC ( as well as the IRC Environmental Leaders Coalition. We allow nonprofits to use our meeting space free of charge. Collaboration is very important to us. 

None of these accomplishments would have happened without YOU! Your support means the world! Literally. Our work is more important than ever as people need a place to come to be restored, and a place to learn about restoring our natural world. 

We are so thankful for each and everyone of you, our ELC family members. We are excited about the future and believe ELC will be considered a significant driving force for improved quality of life in Indian River County. 

If you want to be more involved please connect with me so we can make that happen.

We hope to see you soon at your ELC. 
Barbara Schlitt Ford
Executive Director
Summer Camps
ELC Summer Camps
ELC Summer Camp registration is open to everyone. Spots are filling fast!
Annual Gala and Pavilion Unveiling
Environmental Learning Center Annual Fundraising Gala
and Thomas R. Schidel Education & Event Pavilion Unveiling

April 23, 2022 | 7-10 PM
Event Features

  • VIP Pre-Party 6-7 PM
  • Red Carpet Photo Experience
  • World Class Vocalists & Dancers Woven Through the Restoration Story
  • Live Art & Auction
  • Paella Presentation
  • Full Open Bar
  • Dessert & Champagne
A One-of-a-Kind Immersive Experience

Presented by the ELC in Partnership with FW Productions

For more information, contact:

Tickets are sold out but you can still join our waitlist.
We will be featuring a matinee show on April 24, 2022 | 1-2 PM

$35 Per Person

This will include only the performance parts of the RESTORATION show. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase.

This date is reserved as a rain date for the Pavilion Unveiling and Gala. In the event that we exercise the rain date your ticket purchases will be converted to ELC credit to be used for Membership, pontoon tours, kayak rentals, programs or Nature Nook purchases.
Thank You To Our Event Sponsors!
Presenting Sponsor:
Vero Beach Outlets
Standing Ovation:
Dr. & Mrs. Thomas Spackman

Spirit of Sebastian featuring Kolter Homes and Holiday Builders
Immersive Experience:
John & Susan Daniels, Robert & Carol Lincoln, Fred & Peggy Marino, Chris & Keena Clifford, David & Leslie Prothro, and Brian & Cricket Mullaney

Tim & Carol Buhl

Jeff & Rosanne Susi, Peter & Margaret Carnwath, Patrick & Carol Welsh, Randy & Sandra Rolf, and Jack & Mollie Rogers

Captain Hiram's
Curtain Call:
Kmetz, Elwell, Graham & Associates, PLLC

iThink Financial

Liz Santoro

Dustin Haynes - Coldwell Banker Paradise

John's Island Real Estate Company

Tarik & Patricia Kawi


Metamorphosis Consulting

Lara's Theme
Supporting Role:
Della Porta Construction

Christopher & Penny Saridakis

Joan Edwards

Peter Stifel & Hughlett Kirby

Wellbrook Consulting
The Hill Group

Doug & Lesia Graybill

Coastal Interiors

Planes Dental Arts PLLC

Robert & Kathleen Prindiville

The Kahle Foundation

James & Virginia Sourbeer

Barth Construction

Carter Associates, Inc.

EDB Architects

Sihle Insurance Group of Vero Beach

Gas South

Archie S. Wingfield, Jr. Charitable Trust

Atlantic Roofing II of Vero Beach, Inc.
Southern Eagle Distributing

New Vision Eye Center

Susan Kasten

For Better.

William & Susan Friesell

George E. Warren

Bill & Jackie Bannister

Dean Mead

Alex MacWilliam Real Estate

Vero Beach Global Advisors

Marine Bank and Trust Company

SpringHill Suites and Hampton Inn

Schlitt Gonzalez Team at Coldwell Banker Paradise
Artist Meet & Greet
Summer Internships
We are searching for passionate, nature-loving high school and college students to apply for our paid summer internship program. Build your resume while learning about the Indian River Lagoon!
Youth Environmental Leaders Corps
Eco-Action Society
The goal of the Eco-Action Society is to encourage local residents to commit to learning about the environmental issues facing our planet and to make an earnest effort to model earth-friendly behavior within their spheres of influence. We will host monthly meetings, each centered on a different topic, that can involve any combination of the following: documentary screenings, presentations from guest speakers, hands on activities, field trips, etc. We want participants to leave these meetings with knowledge gained about environmental issues and inspiration on how they can immediately take action on a local scale. Eco-Action Society meetings will generally be at no cost to participants, but there may be small fees for optional follow-up activities and field-trips.

If you have suggestions for topics or events, please email them to us at:
April Meeting: April 5, 2022 | 6 - 7 PM at the ELC Campus

Join us for this month's meeting and hear from Ariadna Rojas Corzo-a graduate student and research assistant with the Fisheries Ecology and Conservation Lab at FAU's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Her research focuses on using acoustic telemetry techniques to identify nursery habitats for Florida's protected whitespotted eagle ray.
Kids Programs
Lagoon Academy Homeschool Program

Vertebrates of the Indian River Lagoon
Join us to investigate the animals with backbones of the Indian River Lagoon. This month includes a ride on our pontoon boat!

Tuesday's (Sold Out)
4/5, 4/12, 4/19, 4/26
10 AM - 12 PM

4/6, 4/13, 4/20, 4/27
10 AM - 12 PM

4/7, 4/14, 4/21, 4/28
10 AM - 12 PM
Little Wonders Program

Wednesday, April 27
$10 Non-Member|$9 Member
9 - 10 AM or 11 AM - 12 PM

Saturday, April 30
9 - 10 AM or 11 AM - 12 PM

A free nature enrichment and early literacy program for children 18 months to 4 years old and their caretakers featuring interactive story time, nature, arts, crafts, and so much more!
Young Entrepreneurs Market

Saturday, April 2nd from 10 AM - 2 PM
Shop local and support a group of dynamic and inspiring youth who create a wide variety of super cool products.
Wellness Programs
Yoga with Annie Padnuk
April 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd
1 - 2 PM

Get grounded with a practice for your mind, body and spirit. This class is suitable for beginners.

$15 Per Person | Members 10% Off
Discounted 1 Month Class bundle available

Bundles do not roll over if not used.
Qigong and Tai Chi
Beginners Qigong
Mon, Wed, Fri & Sat
9 - 10 AM

Intermediate Qigong & Tai Chi
Tue & Thurs
9 - 10 AM

$15 Per Person | First Class Free
Members 10% Off
Walking Meditation in the Butterfly Garden
Sunday, April 24th at 11 AM
Walking meditation is a 'meditation in motion,' great for beginners. It's a practice that is all about being aware of our bodies as we move and being present. We'll attune to nature through our five senses in the embrace of the Butterfly Garden.
Guided Tours & Excursions
Pontoon Boat Tours
Join us for a relaxing 2-hour cruise along the Indian River Lagoon while one of our knowledgeable guides teaches you about the many creatures inhabiting the lagoon and mangrove forests along the way. We offer a variety of cruises, including sunset tours and tours of the Sebastian River.

Click below for more information and to book your trip. Private and Custom boats are available upon request if you don't see one that fits your needs. Pontoon boat is handicap accessible.
Kayak & Canoe Rentals Available Daily!

Call 772-589-5050 for availability and rates. Guided trips are available for an additional fee.
Bike Tours on Historic Jungle Trail
Last 2 tours of the season!

Friday, April 1st
9 - 11 AM

Saturday, April 16th
4 - 6 PM

$15 Adults & Children age 13 and up
$10 Children ages 8 - 12 and under
10% Off for ELC Members

Join us for a comfortably paced eight mile tour of the historic Jungle trail that includes several interpretive spots where you will learn about the history of the Jungle Trail, Capt. Forster's Preserve, and more. Minimum age 8 years old. Bring your bike! Tour starts and ends at Captain Forster's
Members-Only Walk at Sebastian Harbor Preserve
Wednesday, April 27th
8 - 10 AM

This month we will explore real Florida on a short 1.4 mile wildflower walk through one of the most diverse scrubby flatwoods in Indian River County and talk about what makes it so unique.

Bring binoculars, water and mosquito spray

May Location: Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail, an IRLT property, on May 25, 2022.
Art & Exhibits
Artist Showcase

Lagoon Room Gallery Feature: Spring Fling Juried Art Show
April - May
Tidal Gallery Featured Artist: Susan Miiller
March - May
It's Wild Out There!
(Native Plant Spotlight)
Conocarpus erectus is a common medium-sized tropical tree on the ELC campus. Despite its other common name "buttonwood mangrove", it is a so-called mangrove-associate, that can most typically be found at the edge of mangrove forests behind the line of white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) where it often indicates the beginning of the high marsh that stays moist but experiences only occasional inundation with brackish water. The tree’s adaptation to these salty coastal environments allows it to grow where only a few other plants can survive by excreting salt through glands at the base of the leaf petioles. The rather inconspicuous but showy flower is a sphere shaped panicle (see photo) that bears a button-like fruit, hence the name buttonwood.

With specimens on the ELC campus of more than 25 feet height and branches reaching 20 feet across, it creates a microclimate underneath and suitable growing conditions for companion plants that prefer filtered sunlight. Some of these plants are our native bromeliads like Spanish moss (see photo below). The tree’s especially rough bark doesn’t just host insects for shelter, it also provides an excellent medium for anchoring epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) like the endangered wild pine (Tillandsia utriculata), the cardinal plant (Tillandsia fasciculata) with its striking bright red flowers, or Tillandsia setacea. All of these plants that the tree provides habitat for create habitat themselves for small animals like amphibians and reptiles (for more information about Central Florida’s native bromeliads, read the article “It’s Wild Out There #5 – Bromeliads”).

Relationships between plants and animals are often as complex as they are inconspicuous. Not only is buttonwood a host for the larvae of the martial scrub hairstreak butterfly (Strymon martialis); If you take a closer look at the leaves, you can find tiny crevices around the mid-vein, called “domatia” (see photo), that are believed to be used by mites, which in turn protect the tree by eating fungal pathogens on the leaves.

Some of the most amazing events in nature take place in our own backyards if we replace exotic plants with natives. Buttonwood can also easily be established in dryer sandy soil wherever plenty of sunlight is available and a fast growing tree or shrub is desired.

If you are interested in planting habitat, visit the Environmental Learning Center’s native plant nursery in the Nature Nook – open seven days a week.
Community Events
Saturday, April 2, 2022
3 - 6 PM

12285 County Rd 512
Fellsmere, FL 32948

Come and Learn About the Resources Available to You and Your Family.
All Information Will Be Provided In Spanish!

  • Immigration Law Attorney
  • Mexican Consulate
  • Civil & Family Law Attorneys
  • Services For People With Disabilities 
  • Job Seekers Don’t Miss This Opportunity!
  • Employers Will Be Present.
On April 8, 2022 7-8:15pm, Barbara Purdy, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida and Curator Emeritus, Florida Museum of Natural History, will reveal archeological findings from Indian River County, honoring the history of indigenous peoples. Dr. Purdy is already familiar with the local area as she was involved in “the Vero Man” archaeological dig that revealed human habitation in North America more than 10,000 years ago.
Location: Sacred Kashi, Sebastian, Florida & via Facebook Live.

On April 28, 2022 7-8:15pm, Jerald Milanich, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida and Curator Emeritus, Florida Museum of Natural History, and the Environmental Learning Center will share recent discoveries about the Ais through Jonathan Dickinson’s journal. Dickinson and his party were shipwrecked during their journey from Jamaica to Philadelphia, and experienced a harrowing journey, which included interactions with several of the tribes that inhabited the East Coast of Florida.
Location: The Environmental Learning Center, Vero Beach, Florida & via Facebook Live.

For registration email
Save the Date
Interested in being a vendor for LagoonFest?
Volunteer Corner
Big shout out to all that helped with our third grade splash school programs and that are now helping with our fourth grade lagoon days. We couldn’t do it without you!
Volunteer Opportunities & Training

  • We will have our first GreenTeen, now called Y-ELC for Youth Environmental Leaders Corps, meeting Sat., 4/9 2-4pm. We plan to go over possible programs, activities and talk about recruiting camp counselors. If you’d like to be a part of the program or if you are interested but can't make it that day please contact Nancy.
  • There will be a volunteer meeting for volunteers helping with the Restoration Gala. The volunteer meeting will be Wednesday, 4/20 at 4pm. We will cover all the responsibilities and logistics at the meeting. If you’d like to volunteer and haven’t signed up please contact Nancy. We will need volunteers starting at 5:00 on 4/23
  • We are planning an additional performance of Restoration the following day, 4/24 1-2pm. It will feature highlights from the show. We will need volunteers to help Sunday, 4/24 too. We will share more details for volunteer needs soon so stay tuned….
  • Marc Spiess, Guest Services and our in-house local plant expert will have a Member/Volunteer guided walk at Sebastian Harbor Preserve Wednesday, 4/27 8-10am. You can sign up at or call us at 772-589-5050
  • There will be a Spring Fling Juried Art Show at ELC Wed., 4/6 4:30-6:30. There will be live music and refreshments available. All art is available for purchase. If you plan to attend please RSVP to
  • Need for volunteer Concierge for Welcome Center to assist with calls and walk-ins. Let Nancy know your availability as we have a need for a second person to help anytime we are open (7 days a week). A weekly 3-4 hour time commitment would be ideal.
Thank you all for all you do!
Join Us!
Interested in Volunteering with the Environmental Learning Center?

Reach out to Volunteer Coordinator
Nancy Puglio at

March Recap
From Little Wonders and Lagoon Academy to 4th grade field trips there is always a ton of activity on campus all month long!
This month we welcomed Janisse Ray, Shotsi Cain Lajoie, Xaque Gruber and Marine Resource Council to give presentations as well as our Wellness in the Wild group for overnight camping and a sunrise kayak adventure.
Meet The Team!
We look forward to seeing you at your ELC in March!
(Left to right)
Top Row: Sue Harr, Linda Bentlin, Barbara Schlitt Ford, Ray Weatherdon, Marcy Harrison, Phil Chieco
Middle Row: Angel Mosher, Marc Spiess, Gian Cetrulo, Nancy Puglio, Kenny Kinchen, Janie Hoover, Shelby Chester
Front Row: Meghan Carpenter, Sara Piotter, Rhian Smith
Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being.

Thank you for the many ways you support our critical mission.
We simply couldn’t do it without you!

The ELC is proudly sponsored by:
Susan Kasten
Dale Sorensen Real Estate
Bob and Joan Peirce
Donald and Pamela Barr
Please click and like/follow us on social media and invite your friends to like us as well! It’s the best way to keep up with our ever-changing happenings.