When you walk around campus and explore the city, it’s no surprise that prospective students of Flagler College are drawn to its historic beauty and beach-adjacent location. But when Flagler was recently named #4 in College Consensus’s “Best Beach Colleges,” the title looked beyond sunny skies and sandy shores. The colleges that made this list have a connection unlike any other to place, to people, to community and take full advantage of their unique access to coastal ecosystems. In Flagler’s case, these connections take the form of living labs as well as projects, trips, and lectures that allow for hands-on education.
The living labs are – quite simply – literal, physical spaces where research is performed outside of a four-walled classroom. Even now, three scientists in different disciplines – biology, natural sciences, and anthropology – are researching the effect of prescribed burns on tortoises’ natural environments. Their students are testing cells and identifying plant species as well as mapping the tortoises’ burrows on a 4-mile stretch of coastline. “Where else,” says Terri J. Seron, Associate Professor of Biology, “can you see Gopher Tortoises and be doing this type of research in undergrad? Students aren’t nameless faces. They have real interaction and are able to pose real questions. From what I’ve seen, this blows other schools out of the water. This is graduate-level work.”
Students in these sciences have unparalleled access to the subjects and environments that they’re studying through research in these living labs. “St. Augustine’s beaches,” says Coastal Environmental Science major Westly Woodward, “are the ultimate classroom! Being able to dip your toes into the water that you’re learning about brings the subject matter to life and transforms the way you see and think about the environment around you.”
But even beyond specifically coastal science, the collaborative nature of the St. Augustine community has allowed students to delve into the world of local professionals and educators in all different fields and disciplines. History and archaeology majors can walk ancient streets, handle artifacts, and work in area museums. Business majors are given the chance to work one-on-one with local entrepreneurs. A hands-on, up-close-and-personal approach to education has created students who are fully invested in their work, their fields of study, and the community around them.
Learn more about Flagler College and the Living Labs at www.flagler.edu. Photographs via Flagler College.