“To preserve and protect the Everglades, not just for us,
but for future generations through education and children’s awareness.”
Young Friends of the Everglades was founded in 1994 by fourth and fifth graders at Howard Drive Elementary School in Miami, Florida and their teachers, Marta Whitehouse and Connie Washburn. This student organization was initially formed in response to plans to build a sports entertainment theme park on a site needed for wetlands restoration. As club members studied and learned, they began to
understand that the Everglades needed their help in even more aspects. The animals were losing their habitat. The air and water was constantly being polluted. The original area of the Everglades had been reduced by half. During the 1993-1994 school year, the founders created a variety of educational environmental projects to generate awareness of the need for protective buffer zones around the Everglades.
During the first year, many interesting and educational projects were created to study the Everglades — there was much to learn about the fascinating habitat. The teachers and their students fell in love with this wonderful, endangered wetland.
A few fortunate Young Friends founders had the opportunity that year to meet Marjory Stoneman Douglas, then 105 years old. Founder of Friends of the Everglades, journalist, activist and author or The River of Grass, Marjory was ecstatic over the involvement of a new young generation in her cause. She said, “Take the children out to the Glades and let them learn; education will be the only way to save the Glades. Tell them the Everglades isn’t saved yet!”
Today, Young Friends has educated more than 80,000 students about the dire need to preserve and protect this national treasure. We hope that learning about this previous natural resource will cultivate a desire within young people to become caretakers of the one-and-only Everglades.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the pioneer Everglades advocate and celebrated author began her book, The Everglades: River of Grass, with the statement, “There are no other Everglades in the world.” It is our endeavor as Floridians to promote the awareness and protection of this national treasure. The unusual features of climate, biology, and geography in the Everglades present a living laboratory for global studies of nearly every environmental problem evident in the world today.