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

Almost half the students from the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) who attended a Coastal Education Program at the Living Coast Discovery Center during a recent two- and half-year period were able to participate because of a grant from the Unified Port of San Diego.

The Port’s Environmental Services Program provided $31,000 to CVESD, which made it possible for 11,273 students from 391 different classes and more than 1,500 adults to attend the educational program at The Living Coast between January 2014 and June 2016.

At least one class from 40 District schools attended the Coastal Education Program within this period. Participating students took a pre-test before their visit and a post-test following their visit. The results showed that students overall increased their coastal habitat and science content knowledge by an average of 21 percent.

“I feel privileged to provide a unique science program that teaches students academic science content as well as a greater respect for their local environment and the animals and plants living in it,” said Karen Quirós, CVESD Science Resource Teacher at the Living Coast Discovery Center. “Just in the past two and a half years, over 11,000 students would not have been able to have this inspirational, hands-on learning experience without the funding from the Port’s Environmental Fund.”

The Coastal Education Program comprises 24 hands-on Transitional Kindergarten through Grade 8 standards-based lessons 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 figure out how their own bodies function by dissecting fish and they watch how valleys are formed by pouring water on their perfectly build mountains.

They hike on the trails with binoculars to discover evidence of animals and view the local beach, mudflat and upland habitats. They monitor the water quality on the refuge by collecting plankton and water to test and observe with microscopes. Some students plant native plants to restore the upland habitat so that species of plants and animals can return to the Sweetwater Marsh community. All students learn about their local Watershed and how the trash in the streets around their homes and schools becomes storm drain pollution.

“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,” Quirós said.

“The students gain a new respect for the coastal flora and fauna,” she said. “The knowledge these students acquire during their studies at The Living Coast moves them to care, and take part in activities that benefit the health of the 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 at the Living Coast Discovery Center was awarded $23,250 by the Unified Port of San Diego’ Environmental Services Program that provided transportation for 5,400 students over a four-year period, over one-fourth of the total students attending a Coastal Education Program at the Living Coast.

In 2013, the Unified Port of San Diego awarded an additional $31,000 that was used over the next 2.5 years. This funding provided transportation for 11,273 students, almost half of the total number of students attending a Coastal Education Program at the Living Coast Discovery Center.

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 30,000 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 TK-8 coastal education program fully integrated into the elementary education science curriculum through hands-on experiences supported by classroom lessons. To learn more about the CVESD Coastal Education Program please visit https://sites.google.com/site/cvesdfieldtrips/

About the Living Coast Discovery Center

The Living Coast Discovery Center is a nonprofit zoo and aquarium 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 Living Coast 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. www.thelivingcoast.org

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