PLATINUM2024

Environmental Learning Center, Inc.

Unplug, Discover and Connect

aka ELC   |   Vero Beach, FL   |  www.discoverelc.org

Mission

To educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being.

Notes from the nonprofit

The Environmental Learning Center is a bio-diverse, 64-acre lagoon-island nature center at the heart of eco-education, conservation, and community, located in the heart of the Indian River Lagoon in Vero Beach, Florida.

Ruling year info

1989

Executive Director

Ms. Barbara Ford

Main address

255 Live Oak Dr

Vero Beach, FL 32963 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

65-0064129

NTEE code info

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Natural History, Natural Science Museums (A56)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2022, 2021 and 2020.
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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Mission of the Environmental Learning Center is "To Educate, Inspire and Empower all people to be active stewards of the Environment and their own well-being". In this increasingly digital age—where individuals of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are spending unprecedented time in front of screens—it is apparent that, while people are more electronically connected, they are more socially isolated as a result of less in-person contact with others. With increased urbanization, communities are recognizing the growing need for safe, nature-rich spaces with basic amenities where people can gather to celebrate life together. Today humans control nearly half of all the energy available to support life on earth; the United States consumes 24% of the world's resources to serve just 5% of its population. The impact we have on animals and plants, on inland waterways and oceans,on air and land is so great that we are endangering the nature on which our lives depend.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Education at the ELC

The organization serves on- and off-site nearly 20,000 children and adults annually through school excursion, camp, adult education, professional development and other programs. Its 64-acre campus is surrounded on three sides by the Indian River Lagoon, an estuary of national significance, and is 1.4 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The campus includes native plant gardens, an interactive museum including aquaria and touch tank, pontoon boat and canoes, children's nature play area, visitor center, gift shop, picnic facilities and more. One and a half miles of raised boardwalks, trails, docks and elevated lookout stations with educational signage and a wireless audio tour also allow guests an educational first-hand experience of mangrove forests and the lagoon. While the primary community the Environmental Learning Center serves is the county in which it is located, visitors from across the U.S. and beyond enjoy and learn from its beautiful campus.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Awards

Certified Nature Explore Classroom 2015

Arbor Day Foundation

Green Globes Certification 2010

GREEN GLOBE

Affiliations & memberships

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Member 2024

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Amount of at-risk youth scholorships provided for Environmental Education

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

At-risk youth

Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Measured in Dollar$ amounts

Number of hours of Environmental Education programming administered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Hours of volunteer service

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of free participants on field trips

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Measured in dollar amounts

Total number of guided tours given

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Pontoon eco-tours, guided paddle tours, campus tours

Number of students enrolled

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of students educated through field trips

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Total number of paid admissions

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of clients participating in educational programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants engaged in programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of new website visitors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of Facebook followers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants engaged in Environmental awareness programming

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Annual Visitors

Number of youth programs offered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Education at the ELC

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

On the national level the construction of nature centers proliferated during the U.S. environmental movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This growth was spurred by such events as the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the Cuyahoga River fire and the Santa Barbara oil spill. The citizens of the United States became increasingly concerned about the urgency and impact of environmental issues. This fueled the creation of several regulatory agencies and legislation such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act. These agencies and regulatory acts are constantly under siege, especially in recent years These concerns that were the catalyst for change in environmental policy are as relevant today as they were at the beginning of the environmental movement. Providing the forum to research, discuss and investigate these important guidelines of ecological policy are at the heart of the Environmental Learning Centers impact in the community.

Like other cultural organizations, nature centers and specifically The Environmental Learning Center evolved to meet the changing needs of their communities; in addition to educating people about the environment, they fill the role of a community gathering space. Healthy social interaction is not only good for people, but ultimately good for the environment too, because healthy people are able to act as environmental stewards.

Understanding our natural world and our relationship to it is the first step in reawakening our intimate connection to the earth and how vital it is to our very existence. Promoting that understanding is at the core of the Environmental Learning Centers mission of enriching individuals’ relationship with nature. Our need to interface with nature is fundamental.

Research on this topic is growing, and the science is making clear that there is a strong correlation not only between an individual’s immersion in a natural setting and his/her environmental values and actions, but also on his or her physical and psychological health.
Recent studies show that connecting with nature can:

o Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
o Reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
o Increase cognitive function and brain performance
o Increase fitness levels and build active, healthy bodies
o Reduce symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s
o Reduce behavioral problems in prison inmates
o Provide periods of respite in a hurried, technology-filled world
o Provide hands-on experiences showing why we need natural resources for survival

The Environmental Learning Center promotes an understanding of the inherited need for stewardship of the earth's precious resources.

"Nature Centers in Local Communities: Perceived Values", is a 2016 national study conducted by Matthew Browning PhD of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , in association with the Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA). The study examined the relationships between nature centers and the people living around them – including both people who visit and people who don’t visit but still perceive value in a nature center existing in their community, Of the nearly 2000 nature centers that exist across the United States the Vero Beach Environmental Learning Center (ELC) was one of sixteen nature centers chosen to partake in this peer reviewed study. In each community detailed surveys were conducted including 12,000 randomly selected citizens within a 20-mile radius of the given nature center.

There were four major values identified by respondents regarding their local nature Centers:
1. Environmental Connection
• Encourages environmental behavior
• Provides wildlife habitat and/or ecosystem services
• Increases environmental awareness
• Provides a place for children to learn
• Provides access to nature

2. Leisure Provision
• Provides a place for physical exercise
• Provides a place for retreat, restoration, and relaxation
• Provides a safe place for outdoor recreation

3. Community Resilience
• Contributed to the local economy
• Develops a sense of pride in the local community
• Makes the community a more beautiful place

4. Civic Engagement
• Links people to political action
• Helps bring people together from different races/ethnicities
• Provides the local community a place to gather

The Association of Nature Center Administrators States, “nature centers bring environments and people together under the guidance of trained professionals to experience and develop relationships with nature.”

At ELC, we know firsthand the ways that nature helps us. Every day, we see the benefits that people receive from their relationship with nature. Our mission is “to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being.” We are committed to the mission of enriching and expanding the ways in which people relate and interact with nature.

With an education staff of five full time environmental educators and multiple waterway captains and guides the ELC is able to provide a complete and well-designed array of programs, events, and education experiences for top of class environmental education experiences.

Holiday Break Camps

The ELC offers full day camps for holiday breaks to keep your kids active and engaged. Our hands-on environmental education activities allow campers to unplug from typical school life and discover new interests in the outdoor world.

Summer Camps

Each summer, the Environmental Learning Center continues to offer our most beloved camp activities. We offer immersive experiences for children entering kindergarten through 8th grade that are hands-on, feet-wet, and encourage outdoor exploration using different scientific tools on the ELC’s campus.

Little Wonders Program
(18 months – 4 years Old)

This type of play: supports creativity and problem solving, improves eyesight, enhances cognitive abilities, improves academic performance, improves nutrition, increases connection with nature, improves social relations, reduces stress and anxiety, reduces attention deficit (ADD) symptoms, improves self-discipline, increases physical activity and much more!

Lagoon Days
(4th Graders)
The theme for Lagoon Days is Interconnections.
Lagoon Days Goals
• To teach students about the natural world through hands-on learning adventures in the outdoors, building on what they learned at the ELC in 1st and 3rd grades.
• To demonstrate the importance of interconnections in the environment – everything fits together, interacts, and is interconnected like puzzle pieces.
• To cultivate an appreciation for the Indian River Lagoon, one of North America’s most diverse estuaries.
• To develop a sense of stewardship for the earth’s resources and learn how individual actions directly affect the environment.


Junior Interpreters
(Middle School)
• Learn about local animals and plants.
• Lead public educational programs.
• Have the opportunity to serve as senior camp counselors over the summer.
• Participate in our annual events like EcoFest, Half Haunted Halloween, & Winter Green Night Lights.
• Take part in community clean-ups, volunteer opportunities, and trips to local recreational areas in an effort to gain a greater awareness for the issues facing Florida.

Y-ELC (Youth Environmental Leaders Corp)
(High School)

ELC Y-ELC high school volunteers have the opportunity to build a resume, earn community service hours for school, make new friends, learn all about conservation and the local environment, and have fun while helping educate campers and ELC visitors about wildlife and the local ecosystem.

Paid Summer High School Internships Career Training
*We are pleased to offer a 7-week paid internship for highly motivated Indian River County students from low-income families*

COLLEGE INTERNSHIP IN EDUCATION & CONSERVATION

The most extensive environmental programing anywhere.

The Environmental Learning Center (ELC) was founded in 1988 by a group of environmentally conscious pioneers from the Pelican Island Audubon Society, who lived in our community and cherished the nature that thrives in the Indian River Lagoon. Through the support of our community, we are able to build our educational nature learning and stewardship programs and bring enriching opportunities to all, including those with limited means and access to nature.

For over 30 years, the ELC has worked to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being. Our 64-acre, lagoon-island campus includes native plant gardens, miles of boardwalk through mangrove forests, kayaks and canoe rentals, a children’s play area and many other amenities that allow people to unplug, discover and connect with our environment.

In 2019 the Environmental Learning Center was able to provide:

• top notch environmental education programs enlightening more than 15,700 visitors in 2019.
• 161 school field trips for 2,806 Indian River County students.
• ten high school and college interns’ participation in a “Green” training program that expanded their knowledge and taught them about
career opportunities in environmental fields.
• six major community-wide events, bringing the community together for hands-on experiences.
• scholarships supporting participation in educational programs for individuals with limited income.
• expansion of daily hours— we are now open seven days a week to meet guest needs.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback

Financials

Environmental Learning Center, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Environmental Learning Center, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 06/04/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Richard Brennan

John Daniels

David Griffis

Tyler Puttick

Tarik Kawi

Carol Lincoln

Megan Osteen

Shirley Nichols

Donald E Barr

Tim Buhl

Carly Barnes Witteck

Richard Brennan

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes