Imani Woodin: Miami Service Spring 2022

Student Bio

Photo taken by Nathaly Lay Zelaya fotografia

Imani Woodin is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in international relations with a minor in Portuguese. Starting her life in Kenya, moving around the state of Florida, and living as an exchange student in Brazil fueled her intrigue in learning about people and places. As someone who is fascinated by art, nature, language, and life, she is more than ready to explore Miami through this course.

WHO

I volunteered with my classmates at The Deering Estate, one of the few remaining Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) in Miami-Dade County. We were brought out by the one and only John Bailly and allowed free entrance from the Estate because of our volunteer work.

We first arrived to the site as a tribe of Miami in Miami students, but we later floated off into our mini groups. I stayed with 4 other people who wandered with me to pick up drifted pieces of plastic, which I am very grateful as the journey was not easy.

WHY

Although I am not the most environmental person on paper, I love any activity that takes place outside. This cleanup was a great way to explore Florida’s natural wilderness while helping the natural habitat. I don’t know down to the details why plastic is bad for the environment, just knowing that it’s a problem is enough to have me get down into the wilderness (even if I have to dodge hundreds of spiders along the way).

HOW

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Miami in Miami class as an FIU Honors College student and this was our activity on the last day of class.

WHERE & WHAT

Fallen boardwalk at Deering Estate

The original intention for our class day was to kayak to an island off of the Deering Estate and cleanup there. The reason we didn’t go was because of choppy water, however I feel lucky that the day went this way because I got to discover a natural area like I’d never seen before.

In the morning of April 20 our class was politely standing on the lawn of the Deering Estate, eager to see what was in store for the day. We were led Professor Bailly who opened a gate for us and showed us the fallen boardwalk pictured above. “It was destroyed during Hurricane Irma in 2017.” He told us.

Our immediate thought was do we have to pick up the fallen wood? But thankfully, the answer was no, we were there to pick up the more dangerous pollutant: plastic.

Unfortunately for this blog but fortunately for the environment, I did not bring my phone out with me while cleaning up. This was because I knew I was going to get down and grimy and losing my phone wasn’t worth it. While cleaning the area, everyone in my group fell down multiple times… Claudia (our TA) even lost her shoes in the swamp. But nothing stopped us from gathering the scattered trash.

I found water bottles, shoes, plastic bags, fallen signs, and other miscellaneous pieces of junk while out there. My team was ambitious in our endeavors, as we went far beyond the fallen boardwalk, however we didn’t realize how far we were until we had to turn back. The hardest part about returning wasn’t finding directions, but escaping the invisible maze of the hundreds of spiders and their webs that hung between the mangrove trees. Did one of my team members have spiders crawl on her? Yes? Will I say who? No, Claudia would get too embarrassed. But after a long guessing game and lots of stress, we found our way back to safety with 7 full trash bags.

Paola’s white converse after the swamp.

WHEN

SUMMARY

The mangroves of the deering estate

The day of the excursion, I was ready to clean up, but I didn’t know how much of an adventure this trip was going to be. I am so glad I got to clean the area with other people from the class and share this experience with them. It was refreshing to be outside and feel the lull of the wind while using my hands to clean Mother Nature and I can’t wait until I get to do it all over again.

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