2020 marks two important environmental milestones: the 10th anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. As a proud member of the Gulf Coast community, the Center for Ecotourism is grateful for Alabama State Parks, the Cities of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Foley, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama Coastal Foundation, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mobile Baykeeper, State Lands, and numerous other organizations and businesses who are showing their dedication to the health of Alabama’s environment and it’s people. We thank all the hard working conservation groups and professionals who are committed to providing safe access to the outdoors, protecting many vulnerable species and habitat, and educating the residents and visitors of Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast.


The Learning Campus at Gulf State Park and the Center for Ecotourism are excited to announce the Earth Day 2020 Eco-Hero Contest. Students can submit an essay, art project or service-learning idea for a chance to win gift certificates for Woodside Restaurant in Gulf State Park!


Ready to safely get outside and explore? Not sure where to go? Check out our Safely Exploring the Gulf Coast list. Included is a handful of online resources for students and nature enthusiasts!


You don’t have to hug trees to help the environment (although we do recommend it). Check out our list of 50 Things You Can Do to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Let us know what we’ve left off!


Test your Gulf Coast knowledge by trying your hand at this Gulf Coast Crossword! Check back soon for more games, quizzes and activities!


Calling all students! Submit a project or essay and win!

The Learning Campus at Gulf State Park and Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability are hosting an Earth Day contest! 


Each contestant may submit to one of the following three categories. 

  • A written essay in your original words
  • A nature-based artwork of your own creation
  • A community service project of your own design

Contestants must be a student in grades K-12 and live in Baldwin County, Alabama. There will be multiple 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners across the elementary, middle and high school categories, plus one grand prize winner of any grade. All categories will be judged evenly, so no category is worth more than another. 

Winners will receive a Gift Certificate to the Gulf State Park’s Woodside Restaurant, mailed to your home! Grand Prize $50; First Place Prizes $30; Second Place Prizes $20; Third Place Prizes $10. 

Contest Timeline:

Entries can be submitted starting April 22, 2020 and must be received by April 29th, 2020. We will announce winners on May 1, 2020. If you have a technical issue or any other questions regarding this contest, let us know by calling the Center for Ecotourism staff at (251) 210- 8721 or emailing


(click on the three options below)

“ Writing starts with living.” -L.L.Barkat

The Prompt: Think back on or ask family and friends about some of the environmental milestones that have affected the Gulf Coast. Pick a specific event; it could have been 5, 10, 20, 30, maybe even 50 years ago! What role, if any, did we as people play in shaping this event? What changes for good or for worse occurred within our community because of that historic event? How can you as a student continue learning about our coastal environment and take action to protect it today and in the future? 

Essays are to be 3-5 paragraphs for elementary students; 1-2 pages for middle and high school students. 

Art from nature unites natural elements with artistic vision to create artwork that pushes the boundaries of what art is and how we perceive ourselves in the natural world.” -Thaneeya McArdle

The Project: Nature-based art draws it’s inspiration from the natural environment, sometimes even incorporating raw elements into the artwork itself. The art pieces submitted to this contest category can be of any size and use any medium (paint, drawing, photography, sculpture, mixed-media, performance etc) but must incorporate elements of nature in either the materials used (soil, leaves, sticks, bark, feathers, stones, etc) or the composition themes (habitats, landscapes, wild animals, etc). An accompanying description of the art piece and how it informs us about our local environment should be included. Students will submit photographs and descriptions of their work.

“What we learn to do, we learn by doing.” – Aristotle

The Project: Service-based projects are ones that focus on needs that you identify within your community. For this contest category, we ask you to explore and observe the needs of your community’s environment and plan out a service that you as a student can provide to meet those needs. Environmental-needs can pertain to many factors: wildlife, invasive species, pollution, natural resources, access to natural space, outdoor education, food, citizen science, inclusive policy-making, land management, and more. Use the brainstorming worksheet below (adapted from National Geographic Society’s “Integrating Service with Learning” online course for educators) for your initial observations and ideas. Then use the template adapted from Michigan State University and 4-H to write up a service-based project proposal that could help our local environment.

Service-Based Project Brainstorming Worksheet