Aquarium Encourages Watsonville Teens to Learn About Local Environmental Issues

Jun 10, 2014

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Education Programs
Conservation & Science
Aquarium News

AQUARIUM ENCOURAGES WATSONVILLE TEENS TO LEARN ABOUT LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats” (WATCH) program continues to offer an educational environmental experience to students from Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville High School and for the first time since the program’s inception, Aptos High School. The year-long program begins in summer and extends throughout the school year. This summer, more than 75 students will be introduced to the diverse habitats right in their own neighborhoods.

Watsonville has some of the last large wetland habitats in northern California. Yet most students who pass through this habitat each day on their way to school have little idea of its importance or its fragility. From June 16 - 27 and July 14 - July 25 students from all three schools participating in the WATCH program will do hands-on activities while exploring the Pajaro River and Watsonville coastline alongside aquarium staff, teachers and other local ecologists. The students use scientific methods to evaluate the health of three habitats – riparian (river’s edge), wetlands and coastal dunes.

During the school year, students who continue with the program enroll in a lab science course, Coastal Ecology, taught by aquarium and high school staff. Based on their summer experiences in the Pajaro River watershed, the teens identify, propose and pursue a larger environmental project with the goal of creating positive change through community-based conservation. Some of the community projects past students have developed include: teaching a local middle school class about their local environment, hosting a community dune restoration at Moss Landing Marine Labs, and hosting various activities at the City of Watsonville Earth Day event.

For the seventh year in a row, the aquarium will provide college scholarships to graduating seniors from participating high schools who complete the WATCH program and are enrolled in either a community college or a four-year university. The aquarium distributes the scholarship funds to the colleges where the students enroll. This year’s graduating class is the largest yet, with 42 seniors eligible for scholarships up to $1,000 each from the aquarium.

“We are so impressed by how much of an impact these high school students have on their community and surrounding environment. They reach out to younger students and share their enthusiasm for the environment, for learning and for one another. We hope the scholarships provide some support and encouragement as they move on to college and new leadership opportunities,” said Rita Bell, director of the aquarium’s education programs.

WATCH is designed to complement the school curriculum, build leadership and job skills and provide unique opportunities to engage students in their community. Teens in the WATCH program have earned recognition for presentations on their conservation work at regional and national forums, including a National Student Summit on Oceans and Coasts in Washington, D.C.

The WATCH program is free to participants, thanks to support from Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, as well as donors who have contributed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Children’s Education Fund and grants from Driscoll’s and the Claire Giannini Fund.

Notes to editors:

Contact Public Relations to accompany WATCH program students and aquarium staff on 2014 summer field work, or to arrange interviews.

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.