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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sustainable Floridians: New County Extension Pilot Program Hopes to Expand Sustainability Conversation, Action around State

Starting in the fall of 2010, a pilot program, Sustainable Floridians, will be offered through IFAS Extension. Sustainable Floridians will provide a forum for education and action that addresses concerns specific to Florida’s ecosystems, economy and growth at the local and regional scales.

The non-credit adult education program is designed for citizen volunteers who enroll through county extension offices. It is a hybrid of instructor-led sessions and a peer-to-peer model. The instructor-led portion ensures provision of reliable, Florida specific information incorporated into a 7-week curriculum, while the peer interaction section brings in local knowledge, fosters group cohesion, and provides for a more dynamic learning experience.

The program is designed to take advantage of extension service institutional strengths to deliver sustainability programming. These strengths include delivery of sound, reputable information in a network of existing communication channels throughout the state of Florida. County faculty will lead the program with technical assistance from state specialists and with involvement from a lead volunteer who receives special training in advance.

The primary goals of the program include satisfying the demand among citizens for sustainability programs, creating leadership groups within the community to take on service projects appropriate to that community, and providing greater resilience for communities by working with citizens at grassroots level. Each class will pick a group project early on, such as creation of a local eating guide, installation of a rain or community garden, or participating in low-income weatherization projects. Planning and implementing this project is the capstone element of the course. As with other master programs, participants will take on an obligation to contribute a number of hours in service equivalent to the hours received in their education and training, and those who complete all these requirements will be awarded certification.

Article is courtesy of Kathryn Ziewitz, Florida Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences