Sarasota Bay with Ringling Bridge

PIER Program

PIER: Protection, Involvement, Education and Restoration

Education Resources Pier ProgramSBEP has taken an active role in environmental education by publishing reports, developing curricula for schools and initiating community activities. In February 2003, SBEP launched PIER, an innovative education program aimed at educating and inspiring area students. The PIER Program is offered to public and private schools and home school students in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Nearly 38,000 students have participated since 2003.

The purpose of the PIER Program:

  • Educate students about the local coastal ecology.
  • Promote the benefits of environmental stewardship.
  • Increase students’ environmental literacy and stewardship behaviors.

Girls Working in the Bay

The PIER program is an in-school education program and has a variety of facets to it. SBEP offers a FREE curriculum about coastal habitats, invasive species, watersheds, and fire ecology to educators of K – 8th grade called Coastal Habitats. We also pay for field trips for students to go outside and go to one of our restoration sites where they engage in a variety of educational and environmental games.

How to Participate

Curriculum / Field Trips Grades K – 8

Sarasota Bay Coastal Habitats is a unique curriculum developed in conjunction with Mote Marine Laboratory and Around the Bend Nature Tours. The curriculum provides lesson plans and activities about watersheds, habitats, wildlife, native and non-native plants, storm water run off and pollution. Each topic has background information, resources, lesson plans and activities. Lessons correlate with state and national standards.

PIER Program field trips provide hands-on activities such as water sampling and water quality testing, conservation games, and plant and animal identification skills. Field trip activities directly correlate to the in-class curriculum lesson plans and activities. The field trips give students the chance to experience the beauty of Sarasota Bay while learning more about local habitat, aquatic life, birds, and other wildlife.

Field trip destinations include:

SBEP provides onsite naturalists to lead the field trip and activities. To schedule a field trip please contact Around the Bend Nature Tours at 941-794-8773 or

Click here to read a thoughtful letter from Robin Hardy, the principal with Martha B. King Middle School regarding the students efforts to focus on environmental stewardship. Martha B. Kind Middle School received a 2012 Blue Dolphin Award from SBEP at a special event held April 4, 2012.

Curriculum and Field Trips for Grades 9-12

Low Impact Development (LID) Field Trip

Around the Bend Nature Tours offered the first Sarasota Bay PIER high school Low Impact Development (LID) field trip to Sarasota Military Academy students with a field trip to Oscar Scherer State Park. In a pre-visit trip to Booker High Karen Willey introduced students to LID principles including rain gardens and bio-swales, rain barrels, cisterns, reducing pavement and increasing green space, permeable pavers, soil amendments, tree box planters & green roofs. Career options in the “green industries” were also discussed during the school visit.

Forty six students and three chaperones visited Oscar Scherer State Park to put their new knowledge into practice. Water quality samples were taken at five sites and evaluated for temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity and salinity. Students also created their own model stormwater system using LID principles and identified native plants and local habitats. Funding was provided by a Sarasota Environmental Council grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

SBEP is also working on developing a teaching resources and field study program for high school students and an environmental student internship program. The current advisory committee consists of representatives from SBEP, National Park Service, Manatee County Schools, Sarasota County Schools, Florida State Parks, New College of Florida, Florida Sea Grant, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and the Foundation for Teaching Economics. Learn more by emailing or calling (941) 955-8085.

Science Teacher Training Workshops

Education Resources - Teacher TrainingThe science teacher training workshops are offered three times a year by Sandra L. Gilchrist, Ph.D., Chair of the Natural Sciences Department at New College of Florida. Teachers from all grade levels are encouraged to attend the workshops whose focus is improving teaching skills and the understanding of science. Workshops run a full-day on Saturdays thereby offering teachers the opportunity to earn continuing education credits. Hand held computers are used in field exercises to blend technology into the program. Workshops are sponsored by SBEP as part of the PIER program.


  • Workshop I: Introduction to Estuaries
  • Workshop II: Endangered Coasts
  • Workshop III: Waves and Currents

For more information please contact Dr. Sandra Gilchrist at

Tech Kits for the Classroom

Unique Tech Kits are also available to bring technology and the outdoors into your classroom. A Tech Kit is a suitcase full of equipment and standards-based classroom activities that focus on various themes. The Tech Kits are available for loan from SBEP. Four Tech Kits are currently available focused on the following topics: Scrub Diversity, Orienteering (with GPS and Compass), Estuary Exploration, and Low Impact Development (LID). LID is an opportunity to focus on natural solutions to stormwater runoff pollution following heavy rains. Helpful Video.

Please contact the SBEP office at or (941) 955-8085 if you are interested in learning more about borrowing one of the Tech Kits for your classroom.

Need a Guest Speaker?

The SBEP Public Outreach Coordinator is available to come talk to your students about watersheds and stormwater pollution. The talk can be geared towards any age group and features interaction with an EnviroScape watershed model. Please contact or call (941) 955-8085.