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East County Wednesday, May 1, 2019 3 years ago

Adopting Manatees in Manatee County

Braden River Elementary School Students raise money for the Save the Manatee Club.
by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

Braden River Elementary School second grader Rylan Post realized she “really, really” loves manatees when she started learning about them and adopting them through school.

“I love that they’re friendly and really calm and gentle,” Post said.

And that love might be a good thing for her education. 

She and other students in Wendy Bond’s second-grade class and Lorraine Moxham-Smith’s third-grade class have been adopting manatees through the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club.

 Each manatee adoption costs $20 and students receive a color photo of the sea creature and its biography. As of April 23, students had adopted nearly 70 manatees between the two classes, meaning they had raised about $1,400.

“They’re amazing,” Bond said of her students and their knowledge of the animals they’re adopting. “They just have (the manatees’) stories down like that.”

Adoption costs go toward helping protect the manatees and their habitat.

Bond said she’s loved manatees her whole life. When she found out the school would be following an “Under the Sea” theme for the year, it was a perfect fit for her and her classroom.

Learning about manatees fits into the curriculum, too. 

For example, Bond’s students explore math by counting how much money they’ve has raised, writing by drafting persuasive letters to community members about the importance of adopting manatees, art by drawing and creating their own books and science by learning about the manatees and their habitat.

Moxham-Smith’s class touches on social studies by voting on which manatee to adopt, art by creating posters advertising its fundraising efforts and math to figure out how much more money it needs to adopt the next manatee.

“It’s come back to them two-fold in terms of how they feel about themselves,” Moxham-Smith said.

Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club, said exposing children to environmental issues like those of the endangered manatee is crucial.

“(Bond and Moxham-Smith) are helping to inform and educate the future leaders of the world even by the work they’re doing at their elementary school,” he said.

Rose said manatee populations have slowly increased, but the trend may not continue.

“If we’re not extremely strong and vigilant, that decline may occur again, and the recovery potential will be dramatically worse,” he said.

Rose said when manatees were first placed on the endangered species list, manatees’ environments remained relatively intact but populations dwindled to near extinction because the animals were being hunted. Now, manatees face external factors such as  habitat destruction and ecological disasters such as red tide.

Rose said the same things people need to do to protect manatees ultimately will help protect human beings, too.

“By engaging, we can moderate and prevent animals from being harmed,” Rose said.

This is what the students at Braden River Elementary hope to do with each adoption. Because, like Post, they “really, really” like them.

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