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!
May Greetings from ELC
Greetings to our ELC Family! 

Can you believe summer is just around the corner? Happy almost-May everyone! I’m sitting out here at our nature playscape overlooking the newly completed Thomas R. Schidel Education and Event Pavilion. Today was a typical busy day with 1st grade classes visiting for our Young Explorers Program and 4th grade classes completing Lagoon Days fun for the school year. One of our homeschool Lagoon Academy cohorts was going out on the pontoon boat and we had our Little Wonders preschool nature playgroup for a morning and an afternoon session. Many guests were visiting, enjoying our aquarium, trails, eco-boutique and art galleries. We prepared the meeting space to host a nonprofit meeting in the morning and an adult speaker event tomorrow evening. All in all a perfect day at the ELC. 

We had an amazing gala on April 23 and I just wanted to extend our gratitude again to the sponsors, volunteers, board and staff and producers of Restoration that made this venue opening such a spectacular success! We videotaped the show and we will let you know when that is ready for viewing. We also will be having a formal ribbon-cutting that all will be invited to so stay tuned. Thank you Mr. Schidel! Your legacy of love for the planet will endure for decades to come. 

We already have another event planned here for April 30, a festive luau on the stage for 80 people. Our next big event in the space will be LagoonFest on May 21st from 10AM to 4PM. Mark your calendars and be sure to make it out for this fabulous event which has taken the place of EcoFest and will now be our signature annual community festival. We have lots of other bookings taking place so come check it out and consider if this amazing campus is the best location for your next special event. 

As I sit here watching the clouds, a pair of red bellied woodpeckers lands in a tree beside me. I watch a gopher tortoise crossing the field, pausing to enjoy some blades of grass. A female cardinal joins me, then the male. A Zebra Longwing flutters by. A moment later a heron flies overhead, and then an Osprey circles. Florida white butterflies are all about. I watch bees feasting on the native wildflowers. An ibis pokes his pointy beak into the earth for his evening meal. I can hear a bit of human activity, like cars going over the Wabasso Bridge and an airplane flying above, but I feel cocooned in this magical native Florida oasis. It is difficult for me to explain in words and I was unable to capture it in pictures but I hope that you come join us soon and find a quiet spot to sit and center and connect with this incredible living world all around us. The longer I stay immersed, the more deeply I feel the sense of intricate interwoven-ness with this quiet life teeming around me and I actually feel more peaceful, whole and alive after even just 20 minutes sitting quietly in this simple space. 

We will be gearing up for busy summer outdoor adventure camps so be sure to secure your spot this month if you have not yet done so. If demands on your time have lessened a bit during the summer months, consider volunteering here at the ELC. We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers filling so many important roles.

And whatever you do and wherever you are, be sure to get outside and play! It’s a wild and wonderful world out there, just waiting for you! 

Thanks for your ongoing support for your ELC!

Barbara Schlitt Ford
Executive Director
LagoonFest Community Event
Join us on May 21st between 10 AM and 4 PM for a fun-filled day for the whole family!

We will be hosting this community event at the new Thomas R. Schidel Education and Event Pavilion but there will be things going on all over campus including:

  • Campus wide Captain's Treasure Hunt sponsored by Captain Hiram's with fun prizes
  • Vendors and activities in the pavilion oval
  • Quick Canoe Trips
  • Quick Pontoon Boat Tours
  • Pond Dip Netting
  • Crafts
  • DJ
  • Guided Bird Walks
  • Performance by Vero Beach Pipes & Drums
  • Children's Book Readings by Camy De Mario and Piper Johnson
Summer Camps
ELC Summer Camp registration is open to everyone. Spots are filling fast!
Annual Gala and Pavilion Unveiling
Thank you to all of the sponsors, volunteers, producers, staff and guests for making Restoration Gala and Thomas R. Schidel Education and Event Pavilion Unveiling event a huge success!

Help us reach our fundraising goals for the event. Please consider donating to one or more of the areas to help us in our mission to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being.

Unrestricted: Makes it possible for us to connect people with nature everyday.

Maggy Bowman Scholarship Fund: Used to provide ELC campus programs, camps and membership scholarships to low-income participants.

Community Outreach Fund: Used for ELC representatives to go out into the community to provide programs to low-income groups such as after school programs, preschools and senior centers.
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:
Kids Programs
Lagoon Academy Homeschool Program

History and Future of the Indian River Lagoon
Join us as we explore the past, present and future of the Indian River Lagoon. Activities to include fossil hunting, analyzing water pH and the effects of sea level rise and a canoe trip.

5/3, 5/10, 5/17, 5/24
10 AM - 12 PM

5/4, 5/11, 5/18, 5/25
10 AM - 12 PM

5/5, 5/12, 5/19, 5/26
10 AM - 12 PM
Little Wonders Program

Wednesday, May 11th
$10 Non-Member | $9 Member
9 - 10 AM or 11 AM - 12 PM

Saturday, May 14th
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!
Young Entrepreneurs Market

Saturday, May 7th 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
May 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th
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, May 22nd 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.
Members-Only Walk at Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail
Wednesday, May 25th
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

June Location: Sebastian Inlet Hammock Trail on June 29, 2022.
"Urban Greenways - Connecting Florida with Native Plants" Talk with Marc Spiess
Saturday, May 28th
12 PM

Included with General Admission

One of the biggest threats to biodiversity today is not only invasive species and the loss of critical habitat, but also habitat fragmentation into many conservation areas that are often too small to sustain healthy populations of plants and wildlife. Ecological greenways can help mitigate this fragmentation by enabling wildlife to migrate.

In this presentation we will talk about the Ecological Greenway Network and how we can connect Florida with native plants in our yards.
Art & Exhibits
Artist Showcase

Lagoon Room Gallery Feature: Spring Fling Juried Art Show
April - May
We are honored to feature 61 pieces of art from the following artists. Winners were announced on Wednesday, April 6th at our Artist Meet and Greet reception and award winners were given ribbons and ELC gifts as prizes. Thank you to all of the artists and our judges!

Featured artists:
  • Alma Arizpe - Winner: 2nd Place - Mixed Media
  • Patricia Brannon
  • Merana Cadorette
  • Grace Cormier - Winner: 2nd Place - Painting; 3rd Place - Mixed Media
  • Gary Gresko - Winner: 1st Place - Mixed Media
  • J. Scott Kelly - Winner: 1st Place - Photography/Graphic Art/Digital
  • Jill Kettler
  • Stephanie Lovallo
  • Debbie Marriott - Winner: 1st Place - Painting
  • Karen Marsh
  • Camy De Mario
  • Jane Muller - Winner: 1st Place - Drawing; 3rd Place - Drawing
  • Lee Orre - Winner: 2nd Place - Photography/Graphic Art/Digital
  • Phyllis Petrillo
  • Iris Peters
  • Luann Sampson - Winner: 3rd Place - Painting
  • Lisa Rose
  • Joyce Simonton-Clamp - Winner: 2nd Place - Drawing
  • Toni Somma
  • Suza Talbot - Winner: Best of show - Snook on the Run Painting
  • Kevin Thompson - Winner: 3rd Place - Photography/Graphic Art/Digital
Tidal Gallery Featured Artist: Susan Miiller
March - May
It's Wild Out There!
Native Plant Spotlight
Find more It's Wild Out There features on our Facebook page
Netted Pawpaw
When we talk about pollinator gardens, too often people refer to only two kinds of insects: butterflies and/or bees. The latter is furthermore mostly restricted to the ubiquitous European honeybee (Apis mellifera) which, as the name implies, is a native to Europe and was introduced to the Americas for its honey in the early 17th century. Its adaptability and undemanding character as an ecological generalist made it also very useful for modern human agriculture as the main pollinator for most of our crops. Habitat destruction, pesticides, and loss of plant diversity have made it impossible for most other insects to live around conventional farmland, leaving only one species of pollinator to ensure our food supplies.

However, a pollinator can be anything that is physically able to successfully fertilize a certain type of flower. Netted Pawpaw (Asimina recurvata), for instance, has undergone a coevolution with certain species of beetles that the plant provides nutrients and shelter for while the beetles pollinate the flowers. This deciduous shrub grows to be 4 feet tall and can almost exclusively be found in Florida in a wide variety of plant communities around scrub, pine flatwoods, and dry prairie. Even though several different species of pawpaws have long been known to Europeans (the British naturalist William Bartram described two in 1773), and the fruits were historically used as a common food source by Native Americans, the first ecological description of the plant’s relationship with beetles was by the Dutch botanist Johannes Uphof in 1933. Since then more research has revealed the complexity of the relationship between these insects and pawpaws.

The flower of Netted Pawpaw consists of three large outer, and three smaller inner petals (see photo) that arch over the sexually reproductive organs, forming a so called “pollination chamber,” in which the beetles, like the hairy scarab Trichiotinus viridian, feed on the nectar and specialized nutritious structures on the insides of the inner petals called corrugated tissue (see photo of gnaw marks on the corrugated tissue of the inner petals.) Unlike bee or butterfly pollination which occurs rather quickly, beetle pollination, also known as cantharophily, is usually a long process that can last for hours or even days. The plant reacts to the gnawing on its petals metabolically with an increase of the temperature of the flower, which causes the beetle to linger in the warmth of the flower’s interior. This presumably increases the fertilization rate as the insect repeatedly crawls over the anthers (see photo of the white round cluster of anthers) allowing pollen to stick to the scarab beetle’s ventral hairs. As the beetle finally moves on, the pollen is then carried to the stigmas (the female organ) of the next flower.

Restricting our understanding of what a pollinator is to butterflies and one species of bee can make us blind to the actual diversity and complexity of nature. Habitat simplification through human development and modern agriculture has in many cases reduced the biological diversity to a handful of plants and wildlife that are barely enough to ensure our own food supplies. But introduced species, pesticides, and climate change have put further stress on these few insects that pollinate our crops. A common proper understanding and recognition of the complexity of our natural world is therefore crucial not only for the environment, but also for our own well-being.
Community Events
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

  • LagoonFest is coming up on May 21st from 10 AM - 4 PM. Please let Nancy know at if you can help with any of the following:
  • Setup from 8 AM to around 10 AM
  • Clean up from 4 PM to around 5:30 PM
  • Manning Crafts
  • Information Tables
  • Filling in for vendors to take breaks
  • Taking snacks around to vendors and volunteers
  • Parking Help (directing to open lots and spaces)
  • Volunteer led activities including giant bubbles, poop game (it's fake poop), pond dip netting, and Touch Tank.
  • We will be offering 20 minute canoe trips through the mangrove trails from 10:30 AM - 2 PM. We need experienced paddlers to help. We will offer a paddling class on Wed, May 4th and Sat, May 14th at 9 AM. Please let Nancy know if you plan to attend because we have a limited number of canoes.

  • We will have a meeting for the Youth Environmental Leaders Corp (Y-ELC) on Sat. May 21st. We will soon be selecting camp counselors, hopefully many will be from the Y-ELC group. The Y-ELC is a great way to expand your leadership skills, advocate for nature and earn service hours. If you have questions please contact Meghan at

  • There are two EcoAction Adult programs in May:
  • May 14th there will be a free off-campus tour of Proaquatix, a local aquaculture facility that specializes in ornamental marine aquarium fish. Registration is required as space is limited. Please use the registration link in this newsletter or contact Rhian at
  • May 26th there is a free on campus meeting on composting and regenerative farming. There will be a screening of "Kiss the Ground" paired with a presentation from John Young of Terviva. Contact Rhian at for more information.
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

Donor Spotlight
Jean Bess Childers
This month we had a very generous donor step up and donate all of our wish-list items in support of our children's educational programs. Thank you Jean Bess Childers for your amazing gift to the ELC!

Born in Miami in 1927, Jean Bess Childers taught third and fourth-grade classes for 40 years. She loved educating "her kids" about growing, learning, living and loving life here in Florida. She is happy to give this gift to the ELC and proud to help nurture the educational curiosity, imaginations and knowledge of Florida wildlife and wild places for the "kids" to continue that love here in Indian River County.
April Recap
We had another busy month in April! From pontoon tours to our Artist Showcase to Lagoon Academy there was never a dull moment.
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:
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