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Student paddling in the rain

St. Johns River Experience

The St. Johns River Experience is a unique multidisciplinary learning experience focused on the St. Johns River. The three-credit course Experience is designed to challenge students both intellectually and physically, and offer unique perspectives about the St. Johns River through a combination of classroom and experiential learning. Student will meet weekly for lectures and laboratory exercises, and then spend spring break exploring the watershed by land and water.


The St. Johns River Experience was first offered in 2007 as simply the St. Johns River Transformational Learning Opportunity. The course was developed by Dr. Ray Bowman, founding director of the Environmental Center, and education faculty member Dr. Jace Hargis. Support for the St. Johns River Experience has come from the Office of Undergraduate Studies, Cummer Family Foundation and David Strickland.

How to Participate



The St. Johns River Experience is open to all undergraduate students at UNF in good academic standing. Students who are interested in participating must have a very positive attitude, work well with diverse groups and be open to new experiences. Students will also need to be comfortable being outdoors for extended periods of time and be able to swim.


Students are required to enroll in a 3-credit interdisciplinary course that will meet Wednesdays from 12-2:45 p.m. Students will also be required to participate in Saturday field trips, a full-immersion trip during spring break and participate in a community forum at the end of the semester.


In addition to the tuition associated with this course, there is a $350 fee that covers lodging, travel and meals during the spring break trip.

What Does the Course Include?

Student sampling water

Water Quality

Understanding water quality is critical to understanding the health of the St. Johns River. Therefore, every student who enrolls in the St. Johns River Experience will participate in both field collections and laboratory work. Students will test water samples for a variety of parameters and present their findings to fellow students. In addition, students will learn from some of the leading scientists working on management and restoration efforts.

Osprey in nest


The St. Johns River is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish including manatees, ospreys, bald eagles, alligators and many, many more. Students will experience the St. Johns River first hand and get a chance to view a wide range of habitats and wildlife throughout. After the experience, students will have deeper connection with the river, Florida and nature as a whole.

Man playing guitar

History and Culture

The St. Johns River is not only beautiful, but it is also extremely rich with history and culture. Students will hear from artists and musicians who draw inspiration from the St. Johns River and even create some of the own art!

Guest speaker and students

Guest Speakers

Throughout the St. Johns River Experience, students will have opportunities to interact with experts from around the state. Each day will feature a different speaker, which means one day you could learn about the rich history and the next how pollution adversely affects the river.

Students paddling a canoe


In order to fully appreciate the St. Johns River, a number of trips are planned throughout the watershed so students can fully experience the impressive river. Students will spend their days visiting springs and exploring tributaries that feed the St. Johns River. Many of these trips are off the beaten path and allow students to experience some of the most beautiful and unique natural features associated with the St. Johns River.