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June & July

Summer Newsletter





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Consider the ELC an extension of your own backyard.

Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being.

Donate Now to Support our Mission

We are open 7 days a week!

Monday - Friday: 8 AM to 5 PM

Saturday & Sunday: 8 AM to 4 PM

The ELC is a smoke free and pet free campus. Please visit the Barrows Welcome Center to check in and pay your admission.

Adults (ages 12 & up) - $7

Children (ages 2-11) - $5

Children under 2 - Free

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Greetings from our Executive Director, Barbara Schlitt Ford

Greetings to our ELC Family! 


  • Thank you for taking the time to read our summer June/July newsletter. Our next newsletter will be in August. 

  • Summertime has arrived and we are ready! Summer camps get into full swing this week. We sold out early and added additional sessions and still have room for over 70 more kiddos. Click Here to buy your spot. We love this time of year where kids can get back to being wild and free, connecting with the fresh air, getting wet and dirty, exploring the natural world which we sometimes forget we are a part of. 

  • We sent out our mid-year Support Appeal this past Thursday digitally and it is in this newsletter as well. Your support allows us to maintain this beautiful 64 acre campus and provide staffing to run our year-round programs for the community. If you have never made a gift we asked that you consider doing so now. If you are a loyal supporter we ask that you consider a stretch gift at this time if you are able. You may designate your funds as unrestricted which allows us to use it where it is most needed, or you may have a portion of it go toward our scholarship fund or our outreach fund. Click here to contribute online or to access our printable designation form that you can send it in with a check. Thank you in advance for your generous support for your ELC. We can’t do it without you! 

  • We had a busy few months with the wrap-up of our 3rd and 4th grade school district field trips, the completion of our Schidel Education and Event Pavilion in April followed several days later by our unveiling celebration of this new venue combined with our annual gala “Restoration”. We had about 450 people on site for this event and it was quite the spectacular showcase of this versatile new space (video still to come!) thank you to our sponsors and attendees, volunteers and staff for all of your hard work to provide the special night for the community. The following weekend we had a Friends and Family Luau for Tom Schidel and his wife Kay and their family and friends and some board and staff members. Be sure to watch the video link of this special event honoring this man who walks his talk of love for our environment and it’s many wonders. Luau Video

  • A few weeks later on May 21 we had our first annual LagoonFest with several dozen environmental partners providing phenomenal interactive eco-activities for our 200+ attendees. Next year this event will be on Saturday, April 1, 2023 and hopefully the first Saturday of April ongoing. This will allow for the weather to be a bit cooler and have more seasonal residents be able to participate. Our goal is 500 attendees in 2023. Thank you to Captain Hiram's for their fantastic Treasure Hunt getting folks all over campus, reminding us that nature is our true treasure! Visitors enjoyed entertainment by Vero Pipes and Drums and DJ, our food vendors, children’s nature authors story time, Drum Circles, our mural/photo wall, Pond dip-netting and Pontoon and Canoe quick trips as well as our aquarium touch tank and Nature art galleries. If you are interested in sponsoring this event next year so that we can make it free for attendees, please contact Sue@DiscoverELC.org

  • We had a season full of Eco-Action Society speaker, workshop and field trip events - keep an eye out for the upcoming schedule to resume in August/Sept. this is a free ongoing learning community for all adults. Email EASY@DiscoverELC.org (Eco-Action Society and You!) to be added to the mailing list. If you have speaker/topic requests or know anyone that wants to sponsor this important series so that we can continue to make them free for all, please let us know. 

  • Walking Meditation will continue on 4th Sundays at 11a all summer. Lagoon Academy home school cohorts will resume in September. No yoga in June. Qigong only on Wednesdays 9a in summer. 

  • Speaking of upcoming dates, mark your calendars for Winter Green Night Lights December 1-3 and 8-10 as well as our annual gala Mangroves in Moonlight on Saturday, January 28, 2023. We will continue to feature the creations of our super talented local artists and will host Artist Meet and Greet cocktail/music events on 11/2/22, 1/4/23, 3/22/23 4:30-6:30p. 

  • It’s never too soon to start thinking about holding your own special event at ELC, whether it be a birthday, anniversary, wedding, corporate event, holiday party, BBQ or picnic, bonfire, reunion, concert, festival or fundraiser, your ELC has endless indoor and outdoor venue options. Did you know that we create special programs for any age group that wants to visit ELC? Contact Sue@discoverELC.org for a tour and personalized quote. 

  • Our Nature Nook Eco-Boutique is a stress-free way to shop for cards and gifts for your special occasions (ELC gift certificates or memberships are novel ways to support us and honor your loved ones). 

  • ELC reps are always eager to come speak at your business, service club, HOA, or community group. Contact Barb@DiscoverELC.org to coordinate. 

  • The ELC will continue to be open seven days a week (8-5 M-F 8-4 weekends), free to all members, or a small admission fee for nonmembers. Our pontoon trips (including sunset!) and canoe and kayak rentals will continue throughout the summer. Did you know that you can arrange for a private pontoon or kayak trip for your group? Email Linda@DiscoverELC.org to discuss. 

  • Endless thanks to our donors, sponsors, members, volunteers, partners, and staff for being ambassadors for our planet and the Environmental Learning Center serving as our communities hub to Unplug, Discover and Connect! Your investment in our mission means the world, literally! 

  • We hope you visit your ELC soon! It does a body good. 

Yours in service,

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Summer Camps

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Summer is here and ELC Summer Camps are the best! Give your child the gift of an old-fashioned hands-on/feet-wet/fresh-air summer with our unforgettable outdoor Lagoon Island Adventures! We sold out early so we added additional slots and there are still spaces available in the following 8:30a-3p camps:

6/6-10, Ages 11-14 “Week on the Water”

6/20-24, Ages 11-14 “Marine Safari”

6/37-7/1, Ages 11-14 “Field Skills (Archery)”

7/5-8, Ages 6-10, “Imagineers”

7/11-15, Ages 6-10, “BioEngineers”

7/11-15, Ages 11-14, “Survivor Camp”

7/18-22, Ages 6-10, “Young Explorers”

7/18-22, Ages 11-14, “Shelter Camp”

7/25-29, Ages 6-10, “Art Camp”

8/1-5, Ages 11-14, “End of Summer Bash (Archery)”

Sign Up Here
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Things To Do

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Pontoon Tours

Sit back and relax as you glide over seagrass beds and search for wildlife on the Indian River Lagoon. Our naturalist guide provides the perfect amount of educational commentary for you to learn more about this unique environment.

Learn More

Kayak & Canoe Rentals

We offer a wide range of activities out on the water, so you can experience the natural beauty and tranquility that comes from time spent on the Indian River Lagoon. Come explore the waters and mangrove forests surrounding our lagoon island campus or head out for some ocean fun less than one mile away!  

Learn More
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ELC Members Only Guided

Walk - June

Sebastian Inlet Hammock Trail

June 29, 2022

8 AM

From peperomia covered forest floors to massive Gumbo Limbos and the threatened (and not so easy to find!) satinleaf tree (Chrysophyllum oliviforme), this 1.5 mile scenic loop walk through one of the most beautiful and diverse maritime hammocks in Central Florida will be a truly tropical experience. Witness first-hand the effects of sea level rise on our native plant communities while walking through mostly shady hammock, mangrove forest and coastal strand.

Learn More
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ELC Members Only Guided

Walk - July

Ansin Riverfront Conservation Area

July 27, 2022

8 AM

Join us on this easy one mile in an out hike that comprises beautiful mesic hammock and scrub habitat, adjacent to the Sebastian River. Giant swamp hickory, bromeliad laden oaks and Florida wild olive trees will shade our walk while we will also be talking about the different species of epiphytes (plants that grow primarily on the surface of trees) that are native to Florida and how they interact with their environment.

Learn More
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Qigong Classes at ELC


9-10 AM


First Class Free

Members 10% Off

Qigong classes are held at ELC from 9-10 AM on Wednesdays. Minimum of 4 people for class to be held. Will be held outside weather permitting. 

Learn More
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Walking Meditation

4th Sunday of each month

11 AM-12 PM


Members, Students

& Seniors 10% Off

Join our instructor Elise in our butterfly garden on the 4th Sunday of every month from 11 am to 12 pm for this relaxing meditation practice. 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.

Learn More
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Learn More

Next Meeting: Field trip to Barrier Island Sanctuary on Sunday, June 12th at 3 PM for a free presentation and nature advocacy activity.

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Lagoon Academy Homeschool Program


This program will not take place in June, July or August. Will resume in September.


Get out and about on ELC's Campus and study movement throughout the month of September. We'll explore how shape and adaptations influence animals locomotion, discover what motivates an animal to migrate, and test our own navigation skills.



9/6, 9/13, 9/20, 9/27

10 AM - 12 PM



9/7, 9/14, 9/21, 9/28

10 AM - 12 PM

$60 for 1 month

Members 10% off

Learn More
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Little Wonders Program


Wednesday, June 15th

$10 Non-Member | $9 Member

9 - 10 AM or 11 AM - 12 PM


Saturday, June 18th


9 - 10 AM or 11 AM - 12 PM


A 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!

Learn More

Rental Spaces Available

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Native Plant Showcase



Coontie (Zamia integrifolia) is a native long-lived perennial shrub that has made a comeback in the last years as a beautiful and useful landscape plant in yards and along roadsides. Even though rare in the wild due to overharvesting in the 19th and 20th centuries, it grows naturally in coastal hammock and high pine plant communities where it tolerates dry soil and any light conditions, including dense shade.

As a gymnosperm (or non-flowering plant) coontie does not produce nectar and therefore it is not attractive to bees and other nectar-dependent insects as pollinators. The female strobili (or cones) are pollinated by weevils, like Pharaxonota floridana which uses the pollen as protein-rich food for its larvae.

Coontie is the exclusive larval host plant for the once believed to be extinct Atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala) whose gregarious larvae stay together on one plant until all the leaves are eaten. As an exotic plant, this could be considered insect damage; as a native plant though this just shows that it serves its purpose in the ecosystem, as the insect and the plant have both undergone a coevolution.

Evolutional adaptation of the Coontie to the larvae (and also to fire) is paradoxically also the reason for the near-extinction of the butterfly. The plant stores a large amount of carbohydrate in a lignotuber at the root crown as starch which is then available as an energy source for regrowth once all the leaves are gone and the caterpillars have moved to the next plant. This starch, known as arrowroot, was highly prized and sustainably harvested by indigenous tribes. European colonizers then overharvested the plant to near-extinction in the wild, and with it the Atala butterfly too disappeared, until it was rediscovered in Florida only in the 1970’s.

If you want to learn more about Florida, become a member of the Environmental Learning Center in Vero Beach and join our members-only field trips.


Community Events

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Vero Beach Octopus Ultra

July 16-17

Vero X Events has partnered with the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) to bring you The Vero Beach Octopus Ultra. The home base for the race will be held on the grounds of the ELC. In addition, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Environmental Learning Center. 

The Octopus Ultra is a race born out of 2020 and the year of the cancelled races. Like most fine Ultras, the Octopus originated in the RD's garage...the summer of 2020 in South Florida. After running out and back 8 times, for 100 miles (and 33 hours), the first Octopus Ultra was in the books...0 finishers in the 32 hour limit, but 2 finishers overall. The idea behind the Octopus race is to have a centralized location, a base station, with 8 Octo-Arms out and back. The Vero Beach Octopus allows the new Ultra runners to complete their first Ultra completing Octo-Arm one (A1) and two (2); a 50k by completing A1, A2 and A3; and a 50 mile Ultra by finishing A1, A2, A3 and A4. Add A5 and you get a 100K. Finishing all 8 Octo-Arms within 32 hours earns you the esteemed and well earned Octopus Buckle. Be ready to be wowed by the beauty and challenged by the elements and landscaping of the Vero Beach Octopus Ultra.

Learn More

Volunteer Corner

Become a Volunteer

Become a volunteer at the ELC! Do what you love, while making a difference in our community. You'll meet a social circle of volunteers and enjoy volunteer appreciation events! Our volunteer coordinator, Nancy Puglio, will make sure that you get to do what you love and have fun in the process! 

Some volunteer opportunities include:

  • Assisting with education programs
  • Greeting visitors
  • Maintaining our campus (gardening)
  • Serving as docents 
  • Helping with special events
  • Helping with family festivals
  • Canoeing & boating
  • Photography & video creation
  • Communications
  • Fundraising

More Information

Volunteer News

Thank you to our dedicated group of ELC Volunteers! We could not continue to offer such amazing things without all of your help!

Please contact Nancy Puglio, Volunteer Coordinator, at Nancy@DiscoverELC.org or 772-589-5050 x107 if you have any questions or you would like to volunteer.

Upcoming volunteer opportunities:

  • Literacy on the Lagoon will start in June. It is a partnership with The Learning Alliance, IRC School District and many community sponsors. It is a unique blend of traditional summer school mixed with all the fun of summer camp! The program is designed to help rising 3rd graders hone their reading comprehension skills as they learn about the IRL ecosystem. It will take place every Monday and Friday from 9:30 AM to 1 PM; ending on June 30th. Volunteers are crucial in providing a positive experience. We will need 3 volunteers each day to help with nature walks, Touch Tank exploration, pond adventures, art projects and story time.
  • We will need extra help on Friday, June 17th and Monday, June 20th as we exlpore benthic ecology, seining, canoeing and boating.
  • This includes 3-4 canoe volunteers, 1 boat guide, and 3-4 benthic/seining volunteers from 9 AM to 1 PM.
  • If you can help any/all of the Mondays (6/6, 6/13, 6/20, 6/27) or Fridays (6/3, 6/10, 6/17, 6/24) please contact Nancy.
  • Several seasonal Touch Tank volunteers have headed North and many of the year round Touch Tank volunteers are traveling. If you are interested in training at Touch Tank please contact Nancy.
  • There will be a Touch Tank training session on June 22nd from 3-4 PM.
  • Concierge volunteers are needed to back up the staff Greeter on Fridays or Sundays. Most concierge volunteers help from 10 AM to 1 PM but any 2-3 hours you can offer would be helpful.
  • Tasks included are answering phones, welcoming guests, program sign-ups, etc.
  • Staff Greeters have other responsibilites and the help provides them the time to focus on other tasks. Plus it's in air conditioned comfort!
  • We have a new Native Plant Nook at ELC!
  • The volunteer commitment can be anywhere from a few mintues to water the plants up to a few hours for propagation, seed collection, potting, etc. Watering is definitely the most important part.
  • It can be a great tie in for someone that's already at ELC for a different volunteer area. The propagation station etc, will be in the shade house. We are trying to get it started this summer to determine if we can run it year-round. If you are interested in helping in this area please contact Nancy.

Other News:

  • There will be a Members/Volunteer only walk at the Sebastian Inlet State Park Hammock led by our staff native plant expert, Marc Spiess, on June 29th at 8 AM. You can sign up at www.DiscoverELC.org.

We are often asked for volunteer hours when submitting applications for grants. Please submit your volunteer hours at the following link:

Volunteer Hour Submission Form


We had luau themed ribbon-cutting for Tom Schidel and family to celebrate the completion of the Thomas R. Schidel Education & Event Pavilion. His legacy of love for the natural world will live on for decades to come. Please enjoy the video of the event below.

On May 21st we had our first annual LagoonFest with several dozen environmental partners providing phenomenal interactive eco-activities for our 200+ attendees. Next year this event will be on Saturday, April 1, 2023 and hopefully the first Saturday of April ongoing. 

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Save these dates for our signature events:

WinterGreen Night Lights

Dec 1-3 & 8-10, 2022

Mangroves & Moonlight Annual Gala

Jan 28, 2023


Apr 1, 2023

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Thank you to our Annual Sponsors and Partners!

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