The CREW Trust welcomes all school groups to explore the CREW Trails with us, and engage in focused environmental education activities that help children learn to love and understand the natural world. We work directly with Collier and Lee County schools as well as many home school groups, charter and private schools in Southwest Florida.
Students will hike, explore, learn about plants and animals, test water quality, collect data on ecosystem parameters, dip-net, journal, learn about prescribed fires and more during their time on the CREW Trails. Each trip is custom designed for the group and grade level. We use three different trail systems (CREW Marsh Trails, Cypress Dome Trails and Bird Rookery Swamp Trail) to provide a variety of opportunities for the students to grow and learn from the wonders of nature.
The CREW Trust offers the following field trips for K – 12 students:
- Walk Through a Watershed Trip (designed with and for Collier County 3rd grade classes) – students will hike a section of the CREW Marsh trails and learn about the different ecosystems before learning about the watershed and viewing the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh. On the second half of the field trip, students will use dipnets to explore the organisms found in the water and discuss their place in the watershed.
- Soil ROCKS! – designed to align with 2nd grade standards, this program focuses on the types of soil found in different habitats and how that soil affects the wildlife and plantlife in that habitat.
- Watershed and Wildlife Walk – adapted for all ages, K-12
- High School Watershed Trips – Biodiversity, Wetland Ecology, Fire Ecology, or the Legacy Trip
- Home school/Specialty Trips – we’ll design a program to fit your needs
To schedule a school field trip:
- Call 239-657-2253 to inquire about availability and to discuss your needs.
- Collier County 3rd grade teachers only – must request a Walk Through the Watershed field trip using the online registration system set up by the Science Department.
- All other teachers can download the following form and email the Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Background Information for Teachers, Students and Parents
Here are some short videos about the CREW project that you can show your students before the field trip:
What is CREW?
CREW, The Big Classroom
CREW: Back to Nature
The CREW project began in 1989 after several years of drought caused wells to go dry in southern Lee County. The Lee County Commission asked the South Florida Water Management District to buy the Flint Pen Strand for a water recharge area to ensure a better water supply for southern Lee County. At the same time, Corkscrew Swamp and the Conservancy of Naples asked the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to buy Bird Rookery Swamp to protect the southern and western edges of the Corkscrew Sanctuary. The Water Management District studied the area and discovered there was an even larger undisturbed area of wetland in this watershed system and determined that the whole system needed to be protected.
However, the SFWMD could not afford to purchase the whole project at one time. So, some concerned citizens formed the CREW Land & Water Trust, a private, non‐profit organization whose mission is to coordinate and oversee the purchase and management of the CREW lands. With a lot of determination and through partnerships with state and local governments, private landowners and businesses, environmental organizations and interested citizens, the first parcels of land were bought in 1990. Since then, 27,000 acres of the 60,000‐acre project have been purchased for conservation.
Protecting this land provides a place for water to slowly seep in to the ground, recharging the aquifer with drinking water. It also allows water to spread out and flow across the land where vegetation can filter pollutants out of the water before it reaches the Gulf. In addition to providing for clean water, protecting this land also makes available habitat for wildlife and recreation lands for the public.
The SFWMD has since taken ownership of most of the land and now manages the land to restore water flow, remove exotic plants and animals, and re‐plant native vegetation. The CREW Land & Water Trust provides most of the education and outreach programs and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides law enforcement and wildlife management on the CREW properties.
In 1994, the CREW Marsh Hiking Trails off of Collier County Road 850 (Corkscrew Road) were opened for public access. These trails provide hikers with an opportunity to see pine flatwoods, oak hammocks and the Corkscrew Marsh along five miles of hiking trails. In 2008, the CREW Cypress Dome Trails were opened. And in 2011, the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trails opened to the public. The trails are open, free of charge, from sunrise to sunset all year.
School groups of all ages come to CREW to study the watershed, wildlife, or fire ecology and to collect data on water quality or forest density.