Ricky Pires Director,
“Wings of Hope” Program
The Florida Panther Posse is an environmental education project run through the “Wings of Hope” program at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). College Students work one-on-one with Posse students during programs throughout the school year. These experiences build confidence in both college and elementary students, and helps all participants to better understand our natural world. The FGCU "Wings of Hope" program busses over 4,000 4th & 5th graders from Lee County and Collier County to the FGCU Campus, and to CREW throughout the course of the school year.
The “Florida Panther Posse Challenge” enhances students’ reading, writing, science, geography, math, and research skills. Elementary students rotate through five different challenge stations where FGCU students teach them about kittens, panther research, (radio collars/infrared motion cameras/telemetry), wildlife that lives with the Florida Panther & tracks, natural history and signs of a panther, and water conservation. The learning process involves hands-on activities, note-taking in a science based journal, and examination of scientific instruments used for research.
Helping one cent at a time, this fundraiser purchases infrared motion cameras with pennies collected by Posse students. These images, like the one taken (right) of a Florida Panther, provide researchers with crucial data about panthers, their offspring and other wildlife. Part of the funds also go to FWC Panther Team to help injured panthers, orphaned kittens and purchase research equipment.
Students at participating elementary schools sell popcorn at the schools every Friday during lunch to raise money for the purchase of more infrared motion camers. This fundraiser assists in the purchase of research equipment, helping injured panthers, and also orphaned kittens by the FWC Panther Team.
Each elementary school and college student takes the information they learn and educates at least two other people about the panther and its habitat. Each year over 8,000 additional people are educated about important environmental issues in Southwest Florida.