Inspiring Future Ocean Leaders
One of our most important goals is to instill in young people a lifelong passion for science and the environment, and a commitment to caring for the natural world. Your donations let us offer transformational opportunities to thousands of students and teachers every year. Thank you.
Supporting Teachers in Science Education
We are one of the only aquariums in the nation to provide professional development opportunities at no cost to teachers as well as students. From our beginning, it's been a hallmark of our commitment to education.
In 2017, we engaged teachers in firsthand explorations of ocean and wetland ecosystems during four Teacher Institutes. Over the course of several days, teachers conducted field investigations and met with scientific experts to learn how to integrate science and technology into their curriculum, and to deepen their understanding of marine science and ocean conservation. Teachers found ways to apply the principles of project-based learning and environmental exploration in their schoolyard or local neighborhood, regardless of whether their classrooms are located in a coastal region or an inland community.
Once again, we offered our popular Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit for K–12 teachers, to provide them and their students with the knowledge and skills to help combat plastic pollution at their schools and in their communities. Many also took part in our annual Connecting Conservation and Technology Workshop.
Innovating for Our Future
Our education team spent most of 2017 evaluating our current programs and researching new approaches, with the goal of incorporating the best ideas into the curriculum we'll offer when we open the doors of our Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership to students and teachers in 2019.
Our program development process ensures that we can launch a suite of fresh programs reflecting educational best practices and the needs of our audiences, all while maintaining the Aquarium's renowned standard of excellence.
Our team turned planning into a dynamic process of reflection and learning for everyone involved. They assessed our education programming from all angles. They looked at how well we convey key conservation content, aligned to educational standards, whether we're reaching the most important audiences and whether we use the most effective teaching strategies. That process required our staff to visit other institutions, consult with our scientists and those at partner institutions, and engage with our community partners.
Aquarium educators took what they learned and created new learning experiences to integrate into existing programs or to serve as the basis for dynamic new programming. These are now being tested and piloted to identify the most promising. On the horizon are new and revamped teen programs, new options for visiting school groups and new experiences for teachers.
"I've learned that I'm a person who cares for the environment, and can create change around me."
- Maria Perez
WATCH alumna and recipient of our 2017 Paul Walker Foundation Ocean Leadership Youth Award
Our New Center Takes Shape
With your generous support, our unprecedented commitment to informal science education is quickly becoming a reality: we began construction on our new Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership. Our most ambitious endeavor since opening the Aquarium, the new Center will allow us to take our work with young people to the next level—inspiring future ocean leaders for generations to come.
We're on track to open in 2019. It's been exciting to watch the building rise on Cannery Row as our construction crew completes more of the structure. The Center's location across from a public beach—and its unobstructed ocean views—will help build a deeper connection to the ocean among the students and teachers who participate in our programs.
The Center will also accommodate innovative programming, with the technology to deliver multimedia content and distance learning.
Ocean Science Experiences for California Students
More than 80,000 schoolchildren, and 30,000 teachers and chaperones, visited the Aquarium on a free school field trip during the last academic year. Nearly half engaged in a facilitated program that strengthened their understanding of conservation and science, whether through a hands-on exploration of Monterey Bay and its amazing wildlife or a media-rich presentation of Aquarium inside stories.
We engaged more than 1,500 preschool children from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties through our Splash Zone Head Start Discovery Program. As they and family members learned about the ocean at the Aquarium, the young children—many who've never visited the coast before—developed a sense of caring for marine life and habitats.
Teen Programs Enrich Young Lives
Inspiring teens to take action to protect the ocean is one of our top priorities. Some of them are now inspiring others in their communities, and beyond.
Students in Young Women in Science increased their knowledge of marine science as well as their skills and the belief that they can make a difference by taking action for the ocean. During the weeklong bilingual camp, more than 100 young women met with researchers, took part in scientific explorations, examined the lifecycle of sea otters and learned how humans impact ocean health.
More than 100 Teen Conservation Leaders learned about marine science and conservation during an intensive two-week summer training, and as they volunteered at the Aquarium in various capacities. They worked alongside adult volunteers, building confidence and professionalism while gaining valuable workplace experience.
Nearly 50 Student Oceanography Club participants learned about nearshore habitats during the yearlong program. Drawing on their new insights, the teens participated in a dune restoration project, met with scientists working in Elkhorn Slough, or picked up trash along the coastal recreation trail and recorded data on the type of debris they found.
Students in Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats carried out detailed studies of environmental conditions in their communities. With support of local scientists, 70 teens worked in teams to develop and implement field projects. They devised testable hypotheses, identified appropriate methods and tools, collected data and analyzed their findings. They concluded by presenting their findings to the public at the Aquarium and the Mello Center in Watsonville.
Since its inception, almost 400 students have participated in WATCH. Thanks to your support, we have awarded over $207,000 in college scholarships to some of those teens to continue their education in science. These scholarships, and the program, reflect our commitment to help young people connect to the ocean and pursue their academic dreams.
In August, we invited program alumni to a 10th anniversary celebration at the Aquarium. Over 150 students attended with family members—new babies, grandparents and other loved ones—to meet and reconnect with their peers and our staff and teachers.
Each year, participants discuss their projects in poster presentations at the Aquarium and the Mello Center in Watsonville.