Aquarium's Partnership with Watsonville Community Wins Noyce Foundation Award

Jul 01, 2014

Conservation & Science
Education Programs
Aquarium News

It turns out one of the best ways for the Monterey Bay Aquarium to truly inspire ocean conservation is to engage a single community in a broad and lasting partnership.

A decade-long, intensive science education collaboration between the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pajaro Valley Unified School District and the Watsonville community is one of seven museums and science centers nationwide to receive the Noyce Foundation’s prestigious “Bright Light” award.

The aquarium’s systematic approach combines a series of different education programs designed to engage a broad spectrum of the Watsonville community over time. They range from serving some 3,500 Watsonville-area students through free aquarium school programs each year, to its popular Splash Zone program for Head Start groups.

Other initiatives include Young Women in Science, Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH),Teacher Professional Development, affordable access programs for low income families and annual events with the Hispanic community in mind.

“Providing students a rigorous, 21st century science education has become harder and harder for schools to do alone,” Vice President of Education Cynthia Vernon said. “We’re proud to be working with school administrators, teachers and other members of the community to offer experiences that help young people become more science-literate, confident and ready to act on behalf of the oceans.”

The Bright Lights award comes at a time when the aquarium has just announced construction of a major new 13,000-square-foot Ocean Education and Leadership Center to be located on Cannery Row.

The center will focus primarily on highly interactive programs for teens and teacher professional development. The new education building and related programs will be funded by a $50 million campaign, $20 million of which is in hand so far.

Program success is measured in a variety of ways. Aquarium visitation by Latinos has increased 70 percent since 2009 due in part to the initiative. In an environment where half are English language learners, the high school drop-out rate is 13 percent and 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price meals, many Watsonville teens face major challenges succeeding in school. Yet the overwhelming majority of WATCH participants complete the program, graduate from high school and attend college.

The Bright Lights Community Engagement Awards competition recognizes select museums and science centers for exceptional depth, breadth and impact of their community outreach work. Outreach efforts focused on some aspect of science, technology, engineering or math is of particular interest.

Other 2014 Bright Lights awards were given to San Jose’s Tech Museum, Explora in Albuquerque, Hands on Children’s Museum in Olympia, Science Museum of Minnesota, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

The goal of Bright Lights is to shine a light on those willing to embrace their communities in new and profound ways.

More than two million students have benefited from free guided and unguided tours, as well as free classroom and field learning activities, thanks to the generosity of our donors. The nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2014, with a mission to inspire conservation of the oceans.

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