The Emerald Coast’s living classroom

Now that most students have turned to virtual classrooms for education, they are no longer constrained by walls, and can now learn through adventure because their classroom is wherever they are! Florida’s Emerald Coast is full of hands-on learning opportunities for students of all ages and what better way to gain in education than living it and seeing it.

Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center: The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center is a working conservation and education center open to the public on Navarre Beach, Florida. Founded in 2013 through grassroots community involvement, the NBSTCC’s mission is to conserve and protect threatened and endangered sea turtles through community education and partnered research. NBSTCC operates a 2,010 square foot conservation and education center open to the public year-round. Through the doors of the NBSTCC, guests enter the main pool exhibit featuring a 15,000-gallon saltwater pool, home to Sweet Pea, a non-releasable green sea turtle, and ambassador-in-residence of the NBSTCC. For many guests, Sweet Pea is the first sea turtle they have seen, and her story tells of the dangers, and promise, that human choices have on this imperiled species.

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We’re incredibly excited to announce the NBSTCC was awarded a $5,315 from the @gulfpower Foundation! Funds will be used to rejuvenate approximately 300 square foot area in the “Reef Room” of the Shanna Litterst Education Center creating a new exhibit, Dive In-Explore Gulf Life! This exhibit will allow guests to take an underwater journey through the sea turtles’ realm to inspire an appreciation and conservation-minded perspective for the Gulf of Mexico and its inhabitants, with a special focus on sea turtles. Floor to ceiling underwater imagery of our local Gulf waters, courtesy of community partner Rebecca McCall Photography, allows guests to “swim” with local shark and sea turtle species. Catering to different learning styles, the exhibit incorporates visual, audio, and tactile options. Guests will learn species factoids; how sharks contribute to healthy oceans; impact of human activity; and actions they can adopt to protect and restore these imperiled species. Gulf Power Foundation, we’re so grateful for your support and for all you do throughout our communities!

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Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary: The near-shore reefs offer a classroom under water and allow people of all skill levels to easily view marine life and ecosystems inhabiting the reefs by traveling only a few hundred feet off-shore. These reef sites offer an easy and inexpensive option to increase your snorkeling and diving abilities or check out a new piece of equipment. The reefs consist of multiple piling-mounted Eco Systems made in Gulf Shores, AL. Materials are thin concrete discs covered in Florida limestone rock and mounted on environmentally friendly composite pilings which are driven into the seabed. Three to four discs each 5 ft in diameter are mounted on each piling and the individual reef structures are placed 10 – 20 ft apart.

Gulf Coast Kiln Walk at Holley Hill Pottery provides a magnificent art history housing the largest anagama kiln in the state of Florida. The anagama (a Japanese term which means “cave kiln”) has no separation between where the fire is stoked and the pottery, allowing the ashes to glaze and polish the works of art in the kiln to the surprise of the creator. The results of this type of kiln are amazing and unpredictable. This location also houses the Ralph Howard Phillips Southern Groundhog kiln, the only 1940’s era wood-fueled kiln in the state.

Historic Arcadia Mill Site: Students can experience the rich heritage of northwest Florida’s milling industry and community. Historic Arcadia encompasses 42 acres spanning two different properties located within the footprint of the original Spanish land grant. Between 1817 and 1855, the mill site developed into a multi-faceted operation that included a sawmill, a lumber mill with planing and lathing machines, the Arcadia Pail Factory, a shingle mill, textile mill, an experimental silk operation, and one of the first railroads chartered in territorial Florida.

Fort Pickens: In May 1828, the federal government acquired about 998 acres on Santa Rosa Island to build Fort Pickens. By August, Captain William H. Chase, the senior engineer on the Gulf, was assigned to Pensacola and tasked with building Fort Pickens.

Workers broke ground in May 1829. They used materials like lime, water, and sand to make mortar; lumber to build a foundation, wharves, scaffolding, and support buildings; lead sheets to waterproof casemate arches and for gutters and drains; granite for steps and traverse stones; copper sheeting, bars, and fixtures for use in powder magazines; and bricks for the entire fort. At the time of its completion, Fort Pickens was the largest brick structure on the Gulf of Mexico. It exhibited the latest theories in coastal defense design, construction, and weaponry. The fort illustrated the growing power of the US, and as a part of the Third System, it helped make the nation virtually impregnable.

Indian Temple Mound Museum: Just to our east in Fort Walton Beach is the historic Indian Temple Mound Museum. The prehistoric temple mound, located on the museum grounds, represents one of the most outstanding artifacts left by the early inhabitants of this community. Built as a ceremonial and political center by the Mound Builder Culture between 800-1400AD, this mound is thought to be the largest on salt water and possibly the largest prehistoric earthwork on the Gulf Coast. The Fort Walton Temple Mound stands 12 feet tall and measures 223 feet across its base. An estimated 200,000 basket loads of earth were used to create this earthen structure. The museum houses more than 1,000 artifacts of stone, bone, clay and shell, as well as one of the finest collections of prehistoric ceramics in the Southeastern United States. Exhibits also include artifacts from the European Explorers, local pirates, and early settlers.

These are only the highlights of educational opportunities and virtual classroom along the Emerald Coast. Other opportunities include the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, the Air Force Armament Museum, Historic Downtown Milton and many more. Break through the walls of traditional classrooms. Take your virtual studies on the road to the Emerald Coast. More opportunities can be viewed here:

Book your stay now at and let your student learn through a living textbook. Enjoy the arts, history and adventure without the classroom walls – the Emerald Coast is your living classroom.