Thousands of Students Discover ‘Living Coast,’ Thanks to Unified Port of SD

More than one-quarter of the elementary school visitors who studied at the Living Coast Discovery Center over the past four years were funded through a grant from the Unified Port of San Diego Environmental Services Program.

At least one class from the then-44 schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District attended the Coastal Education Program at the center during that period, thanks to assistance from the Port’s Environmental Fund. Participating students increased their coastal habitat and science knowledge by 21 percent, officials said.

“I feel lucky to be able to provide an inquiry-based science program that teaches students a greater respect for their local environment and the animals and plants living in it,” said Karen Quiros, CVESD Science Resource Teacher at the center. “There are 5,400 students who would not have been able to have this inspirational, hands-on learning experience without the funding from the Port’s Environmental Committee.”

From January 2010 to June 2013, funding from the Unified Port of San Diego made it possible for 5,400 students and over 1,000 adults from 220 different classes to attend the District’s Coastal Education Program at the Center.

The Coastal Education Program comprises 17 hands-on Kindergarten-Grade 8, standards-based programs that enhance the learning of students in the content areas of life science, physical science, environmental science, social studies and earth science. There are several programs per grade level for the teachers to choose from.

Students participate in a variety of inquiry-based science learning during the programs. They touch and observe crabs, crayfish, stingrays, tortoises and snakes, and they have up-close encounters with hawks, owls, eagles, fish, seahorses, sea jellies and sea turtles.  They hike on the trails with binoculars to discover evidence of animals and view the local beach, mudflat and upland habitats. They collect plankton and water to test in the lab and view under the microscope. Some students plant native plants to restore the upland habitat so that species of plants and animals can return to the Sweetwater Marsh community.

Many times students form an emotional attachment with the creatures they observe or touch and become “horrified” to see the beach, their new favorite animal’s habitat, littered with trash, Quiros said.

“The students gain a new respect for the coastal flora and fauna,” Quiros said. “The knowledge these students acquire during their studies at the Center moves them to care, and take part in activities that benefit the health of San Diego Bay. Students become motivated to make personal changes in their lives that make a difference in their community such as no longer using plastic bags or getting involved in a beach clean-up.”

In 2009 the District’s Coastal Education Program located at the Living Coast Discovery Center, formerly the Chula Vista Nature Center, was awarded $23,250 by the Unified Port of San Diego’ Environmental Services Program to provide  transportation for students over a three year period. The funding was extended for an extra school year in order to be able to serve as many students as possible.

Overall, the Coastal Education Program serves more than 5,000 CVESD students each school year.

About the Chula Vista Elementary School District

The Chula Vista Elementary School District is the largest K-6 grade district in the state, serving nearly 29,000 students at 45 schools. Since 1987, CVESD has funded a full-time Science Resource Teacher who is co-located at the Living Coast Discovery Center. This enables CVESD to provide a K-8 coastal education program fully integrated into the elementary education science curriculum through hands-on experiences supported by classroom lessons. View brief video clip here or cut and paste the following into your web browser: http://animoto.com/play/FDVJ1sybtnCi1i0e0jm1eQ

About the Living Coast Discovery Center

The Living Coast Discovery Center is a natural treasure on San Diego Bay. Its nonprofit zoo and aquarium is uniquely situated on the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, offering visitors an ideal setting in which to explore the amazing animals and plants that call our coastal region home. With a diverse collection of animal ambassadors and hands-on, interactive exhibits, the Discovery Center inspires curiosity and exploration of the living earth in guests of all ages. Plan a day visit. Attend a day camp. Make a field trip. Volunteer your time. Discover what inspires you. The Living Coast Discovery Center, where wonder comes naturally on San Diego Bay at Chula Vista.  More information can be found at: http://www.thelivingcoast.org

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