By HOLLY ATKINS
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2001
Welcome back to Newspaper in Education!
What's so wonderful about our state?
Five thousand new residents each week. Fifty-six-million visitors each year. The first settlers reached our state at least 12,000 years ago, and Florida wonders continue to draw people from all over the world.
This year's St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education series will be a journey exploring the awe-inspiring, marvelous state we call home. In this space each week you'll learn about some of the wonders of Florida. What makes this state and its people unique? What are some of the challenges of life in the Land of Flowers? You even may be surprised to find some of these wonders right outside your back door.
You'll need to keep your scissors sharp and your Internet connection cranked up because each week we'll be giving readers (you don't have to be a student or a student's parent!) lots to think about and do both off and online (see today's list of links below).
At the end of the series we hope you'll be able to call yourself a true Floridian -- you'll know more about this WONDER-ful state than you ever thought possible.
Because we think that kids are one of Florida's most valuable resources, throughout this series you'll be reading about some famous and not-so-famous Florida kids. So to get things rolling, we asked a few local kids what they thought was so wonderful about Florida.
"The coast surrounding Florida. We can go out in our boat and go swimming."
-- Ryan Abel, age 13, Wellington Middle School, St. Petersburg
"Wide variety of ecosystems."
-- Stephan Meylan, age 13, Shorecrest Preparatory School, St. Petersburg
"Florida differs a lot from the rest of the states (i.e. shuttle launches, numerous theme parks, swamp and beaches)."
-- Thomas Frobisher, age 13, Bay Point Middle School, St. Petersburg
We also turned to a man who has made a career of writing about the Real Florida. No doubt about it, St. Petersburg Times writer Jeff Klinkenberg thinks our state is a pretty WONDER-ful place:
"Whenever I hear someone say, "Florida bores me,' I want to give them a noogie. How in the world could anyone be bored with Florida?
"We have the deepest, clearest springs in the world. We have alligators, bears and panthers. The other day, when I was driving my truck over the bridge that crosses Lake Seminole, I saw a bald eagle. When I was driving on Park Street in St. Petersburg I saw an ancient Indian mound.
"I'm getting ready to go on a fossil hunt in the Peace River. Florida had no dinosaurs, but we had some of the most interesting Pliocene and Pleistocene animals, including saber cats, bear dogs and giant crocodiles.
"Over the weekend I'll be in Micanopy at Paynes Prairie State Preserve. In 1774, William Bartram, a writer, camped there with the early Seminole Indians. Later he wrote about them in a book that has been in print since.
"Florida a dull place? No way."
We hope this series will make you agree with Jeff that there's nothing ho-hum about our state. So come back each Monday as we explore the Wonders of Florida -- and oh yeah, bring your parents along, too.
-- Holly Atkins teaches seventh-grade language arts at Bay Point Middle School in St. Petersburg, where she is the language arts department head. Atkins, who has been a resident of St. Pete Beach nearly all her life, has been an instructor at Poynter Institute's Writers' Camp and is the proud teacher of local and national award-winning student writers. "I have the best job in the world," she says. "Each year I get to write alongside some of the most talented and enthusiastic authors anywhere."
State of Florida.com -- all about Florida from A to Z, literally!
Florida Office of the Governor Kid's Page -- all about Gov. Jeb Bush and what he does, plus cool stuff going on in Florida
MyFlorida.com -- contact government agencies (even the governor!)
Florida Y'all -- Florida-only directory and search engine
Online Sunshine for Kids -- Your Legislature, Capital history, fun facts
City of Wonders -- traveling exhibit celebrating Florida cities, currently on display through Jan. 6, 2002, at the Science Center of St. Petersburg with a companion exhibit, "The City Hall Experience," at Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg, Friday-Jan. 6
The St. Petersburg Times devotes news space to NIE features throughout the year, including this classroom series. The Times' NIE department works with local businesses and individuals to enrich the classroom experience by providing newspapers, supplemental guides and educational services to schools in the Tampa Bay area. To find out how you can become involved in NIE, please call (727) 893-8969 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8969. For past stories, check out www.sptimes.com/nie and click on the Kids Only area.