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The College of Arts, Sciences & Education along with the Miami HEAT and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida once again teamed up for the annual HEAT Glades Sweep on January 29. The ongoing event aims to increase discussion in the South Florida community in regards to the importance of restoration of the Everglades ecosystem and the many threats it faces.

This year, a new educational component was implemented. A combination of over 25 undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty and staff, held an indoor science fair for the students from the Miccosukee Indian School and the Jesse J. McCray, Jr. Elementary HEAT Academy program. Students rotated among 13 STEM-related learning stations – each highlighting the research and activities of FIU labs and student groups.

“Introducing STEM research and activities to young students equips them with important skills such as critical thinking, data analysis and problem solving,” Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator, Shalimar Moreno, said. “We hope that by bringing our programs along with our researchers, the young students will learn about future careers in STEM.”

Turned citizen scientists for the day, activities included CAST fishing, visiting a model of the Aquarius underwater habitat, creating floating planktons, discovering chromatography, interacting with marine invertebrates from Biscayne Bay and more.

“We had a lot of fun working with the kids and covered a broad range of topics,” Moreno said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Miccosukee students and students in South Florida through our education and outreach programs as they will be the leaders of tomorrow and will be tackling some of our greatest challenges such as climate change and sea level rise.”

The second part of the day focused on service projects around the Miccosukee Indian School.

Our staff, Miami HEAT personnel, HEAT players Bam Adebayo and Rodney McGruder, HEAT Legend Glen Rice and members from the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida came together to remove invasive species, construct chickee huts, build side-by-side waste and recycling bins, and paint rain barrels provided by the UF/IFAS extension of Miami-Dade County.

The chickee huts aim to provide additional areas for outdoor learning, the bins encourage the separation of landfill waste and recyclable material on the reservation, while the rain barrels serve as a way to collect rainfall and store it until needed to water the gardens on grounds.

“Volunteering with the Miccosukee Tribe is one of the most valuable ways to give back to the community,” second year volunteer on behalf of the Miami HEAT and CASE Alumna Laura Vila said. “Working with my HEAT family to better the South Florida community is always a rewarding experience.” 

HEAT Glades Sweep is part of NBA Green efforts to generate environmental protection awareness and funds. In previous years, FIU and the Miami HEAT have teamed up for projects throughout the county, including installing butterfly gardens at the Biscayne Bay Campus, creating outdoor classrooms at Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary and building sea turtle nesting sites along Crandon Park Beach in Key Biscayne.

Nicholas Ogle & Giselle Cancio contributed to this story.