The Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park is a non-profit corporation with a mission of generating supplemental resources to preserve, restore, and interpret the natural and cultural assets of the Park for present and future generations.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park was established to protect a diverse and undisturbed subtropical coastal habitat from development. The Park is named for John D. MacArthur, whose generosity allowed the State of Florida to secure the land. Developed in part with funds donated by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Park opened to the public in 1989.
In addition to protecting our natural heritage, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is a model public-private partnership. Owned by the State of Florida, the staff and daily needs of the Park are funded by the State. Since it’s founding in 1990, the Friends organization has enriched and enhanced the Park by soliciting donations, seeking volunteers, raising funds, holding special events and by operating a gift shop. All funds raised by the Friends support the Park, making a visit more educational, memorable and fun.
Since its inception, the Friends has raised over $589,790.00 for Park programs and equipment needs; in partnership with the State of Florida, the Friends have raised over $3,663,000.00 in capital funds for buildings, picnic pavilions, playgrounds and other visitor amenities. A focus on the mission enabled the Friends to conduct a Capital Campaign from 2007 to 2009, raising $1,216,000.00 which was matched by $840,000.00 State of Florida funds. These monies were used to build the Pew Family Natural Science Education Center, a new Beach Outfitters Gift Shop and to completely renovate the Nature Center and provide new interpretive displays.
While the Park’s founders envisioned creating “an island in time” where a living vision of natural, pre-Columbian Florida would eternally flourish, they also bequeathed an educational mission, where children and adults could experience Florida’s natural beauty through first-hand environmental experiences. The founders anticipated not only the physical effects of encroaching development, but were also concerned that without an accessible example of Florida’s natural environment, future residents would have little memory of the region’s origins; and would never appreciate the gravity of their loss.
The Friends organization makes education a priority, providing hand-on natural science programs to all Palm Beach County students free of charge. The Nature Classroom Program provides experiential instruction and activities to educate, excite and involve the students in science.
The Nature Classroom
Enhanced education programs at the Pew Family Natural Science Education Center
The Pew Family Natural Science Education Center at MacArthur Beach State Park is more than doubling the capacity and significantly enhancing the quality of the core educational programming for school children, while also enabling new educational opportunities for people of all ages with a variety of interests.
The Center features a dedicated classroom/lab, designed to facilitate an experiential learning environment and equipped with the latest teaching tools and equipment to inspire curiosity and creativity.
Formerly, Park Rangers were responsible for creating and conducting the education programs, in addition to a myriad of other Park duties. While they will continue to be involved at the same general level now that the Pew Family Center has opened, the expanded opportunities offered by the new facility require a full-time Director of Education.
|Park rangers conduct education programs as one of many responsibilities.||Full-time Director of Education (DOE) dedicated 100% to the natural science education programs|
|Park rangers respond to requests, but can’t take time to reach out to schools.||DOE is a liaison between Park and schools, establishing relationships, developing new programs to engage students.|
|No classroom on site. After fieldwork, rangers take students to an outdoor pavilion for “classroom” work on what they have collected.||Air conditioned classroom, multimedia center and wet labs.|
|Dated equipment.||20 new student microscopes; instructor’s microscope connected to SmartBoard® so students can observe, then experiment on their own or in teams in dedicated workstations; data monitors and logging equipment; sampling equipment (plankton nets, strainer boxes), lab equipment (test tubes, slides, Petri dishes) and specimens.|
The Director of Education
The first focus for the Director of Education (DOE) was to maximize the effectiveness and reach of the center’s educational programming, including rewriting the curriculum to meet the Florida Next Generation Standards.
Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) testing in science begins in the fifth grade; the Palm Beach County School District reports that in 2009-10 only 58% of fifth graders tested at or above grade level in science. It is obvious that a better understanding of the fundamentals of science is needed for grades kindergarten through fourth to serve as a basis for continued comprehension.
The updated curriculum of our Nature Classroom Program provides for all facets of required science education; programs include exploration of our coastal ecosystems, data collection and analysis, providing the needed fundamentals in a hands-on, experiential learning experience.
Curriculum – Lesson Plans – Outcomes – Assessment
The curriculum has been updated to meet the Florida Next Generation Standards and according to Palm Beach County School District Guidelines; each grade level program includes Student Target Grade Level Benchmarks and is comprised of -
- PRE TEST – Provided to classroom teachers, results reported back to DOE.
- MINI LESSON PLAN – Provided to the classroom teachers as an introduction, to be taught prior to attending the Nature Classroom.
- NATURE CLASSROOM ON SITE LESSON PLAN – Using the Natural Science Center and the natural environs of MacArthur Beach State Park to provide experiential science learning.
- HAND-OUTS – To enhance the learning experience.
- POST TEST – Provided to classroom teachers, results reported back to DOE.
By updating our curriculum to meet grade level Next Generation Science standards, we qualified as a vendor for the PBC School District. This awards free transportation to our Park, and Title I schools now have the opportunity to participate in the programs.
During the 2010-2011 school year, 1068 students participated in our programs; by providing the program at no cost and qualifying for free School District transportation, the number of students and schools served will more than meet our goal of more than doubling the participation to over 2500 students.
2011 -2012 Schools Attending Nature Classroom
|Academy for Positive Learning
Baldwin Prep School
Bright Futures Academy
Cardinal Newman High School
Citrus Cove Elementary
Crystal Lakes Elementary
Diamond View Elementary
Good Shepherd Christian School
Grace Home School Group
Holy Name of Jesus Elementary
Ideal School Elementary
Imagine Chancelor Elementary
JFK Medical Center Charter
Kings Academy Elementary
Lake Park Elementary
Lake Worth Middle School
|Limestone Creek Elementary
Marsh Pointe Elementary
Meyers Academy Elementary
Palm Beach Gardens Elem
Pine Jog Elementary
St. Clare’s Christian Academy
St. David’s Epis. Church Elementary
The ARC Elementary
UB Kinsey Elementary
Watson B. Duncan Middle
Weiss School Elementary
Wellington Christian Elementary
Nature Classroom Natural Science Education Programs
Fish Fun (K/1st Grade)
Students explore the estuary as one of the habitats for fish, visit the Nature Center to examine the characteristics of fish utilizing our aquariums and participate in fun, hands-on activities about fish and fishing.
Over in the Ocean (2nd Grade)
Students hike to the beach to explore this ecosystem, visit the Nature Center to learn how animals meet their needs in the ocean and participate in hands–on activities that involve measuring and observing components of the ocean.
Plants Plus (3rd Grade)
Students explore the Satin Leaf Nature Trail to discover how the plant’s structures help them to survive in our coastal communities. The children will also participate in several activities focusing on plant identification.
Habits and Habitats (4th-5th Grade)
Students hike through the coastal communities to compare and contrast the ecosystems using a variety of measurement tools.
Bird Basics (4th – 5th Grade)
Students hike from the Estuary to the Beach to focusing on the diversity of the ecosystems and the survival adaptations of birds and participate in activities to learn about how birds compete for their resources.
Life in the Estuary (4th – 5th Grade)
Students seine in the Estuary and participate in other activities to discover the organisms living in this area and the role they play in the Estuary’s food web.
Turtle Hurdles (4th – 5th Grade)
Students participate in activities about sea turtles focusing on how they survive in the ocean and explore the beach community that becomes their nesting ground.
Beach Exploration (6th Grade)
Students explore the beach and dune community focusing on the natural processes of erosion, and deposition and participate in an activity about sudden changes to these communities by hurricanes.
Estuary Exploration (7th Grade)
Students explore the estuary by seining, soil sifting collection and a mangrove walk to discover the organisms in this area, their role in the food web and the limiting factors that impact their populations.
Design Your Own Program (Middle and High School)
Teachers can work directly with the DOE to design a program specifically to meet the objectives of their science topic utilizing our wet/dry, multimedia lab and outdoor setting.
Widely known as a nesting ground for rare sea turtles, including the endangered loggerhead and the exceedingly rare leatherback, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park also offers protection to 7 species of plants and 22 species of animals designated by state and global ranking as endangered and/or threatened. The 438-acre preserve, extending from Lake Worth Lagoon to the beach, is, incredibly, the only State Park in Palm Beach County, geographically Florida’s largest county.
By design, the Park consists of much more than a conservation area: it also serves as an educational institution, recreational area, research center, and training site. Students, teachers, professors, and researchers conduct scientific research projects, while interns learn the hands-on aspects of park management.
More than 150,000 visitors come each year to enjoy the beach, spend time with family and friends and participate in the ambitious and successful environmental education programs of lectures, workshops, and courses conducted by Rangers and volunteers including:
- Snorkeling Reef Tours
- Summer Youth Camps
- Bird Identification Programs
- Estuary Exploration
- Kayak Tours
- F.U.N. (Families Understanding Nature)
- Nature Hikes
- Nature Rides (for those who have difficulty walking distances)
- Speaker Series featuring a large variety of topics from plants to history
The Sea Turtle Talk & Walks, offered from mid-June to mid-July during the nesting season, are a favorite activity for Park visitors. Following a slide show of the endangered sea turtles, visitors join a Ranger to enjoy a rare chance to observe the nesting habits of a loggerhead sea turtle.
The Park also has an ambitious calendar of recreation programs and activities, to meet the needs of all ages and interests:
- RecSkills (Recreational Skills) Programs
- Surfing, fishing, kayaking, birding, etc.
- Art in Nature Classes for Families and Adults
- MacArthur Under Moonlight concerts
- Bluegrass Concerts
- Reading with a Ranger
- The annual Earth Day celebration, NatureScaping, attended by 2,000 – 3,000 visitors
New Facilities for Expanded Education Programs and Visitor Enrichment
Focused on the mission of generating supplemental resources to preserve, restore, and interpret the natural and cultural assets of the Park for present and future generations, the Friends organization has been recognized by the Florida Department of Natural Resources, Division of Recreation and Parks as the 2010 Outstanding Citizens Support Organization, and as the 2008 Outstanding Citizens Support Organization Project of the year for the Capital Campaign.
Since its inception, the Friends has raised over $589,790.00 for Park programs and equipment needs; in partnership with the State of Florida, the Friends have raised over $3,663,000.00 in capital funds for buildings, picnic pavilions, playgrounds and other visitor amenities. Most recently, the Friends completed a very successful capital campaign, raising $2,100,000.00 to build the new Natural Science Education Center building, Outfitters Gift Shop and to completely refurbish the existing Nature Center, including new interpretive displays.
The new facility was constructed on a site specifically chosen because it was cleared of native growth during prior construction projects. At just over five thousand square feet, the new facility is connected to the existing Nature Center by a covered boardwalk.
Pew Family Natural Science Education Center
The Center is used for classes and other educational activities (e.g., research), as well as meetings and special events. The Nature Classroom will be equipped with eight wet labs, a SMARTBOARD®, 10 tables, 60 chairs, and ample storage space. The classroom accommodates school groups of up to 50 students and instructors. The building will also houses the Research Library, the Discovery Lab, office space, restroom, mini-kitchen, and a storeroom.
Beach Outfitters & Gift Shop
The Friend’s gift shop is a great source of earned income from the sale of refreshments, sundries, souvenirs and kayak rentals. All funds from the gift shop, which uses a large volunteer base as staff, provide funding for Education and Park programs.
The Nature & Welcome Center
The structure of the Nature Center will not change, but that is all that will remain. The theater will receive an upgraded state-of-the-art A/V system, and provide a choice of educational films. The most dramatic improvements inside the Nature Center are improvements to the aquarium system; a brand new 1900-gallon The Mangrove exhibit will be added, along with a Reef Room which will give visitors an underwater experience. The Indoor Sea Turtle Tank will again host one of the Loggerheads the Park is permitted to exhibit; a new Outdoor Turtle Tank will hold another. Dolphins, developed in collaboration with The Wild Dolphin Project, is a hands-on and sensory experience. Each and every one of the new interpretive displays will engage and amaze Park visitors of all ages.
Natural History Interpretive Exhibits
- Indoor Sea Turtle Tank
- Maritime Hammock/Terrestrial Animals
- Seagrass and Manatee
- Beach and Dune Dynamics
- Reef Room
- Sea Turtle Interpretive Exhibit
- Natural Communities
- Mangrove Tank Exhibit
Cultural History Interpretive Exhibits
- Pre-historic Natives
- Munyon’s Island
- John D. MacArthur
For more information, please contact:
Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park
10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
561-776-7449 Ext. 111