On a sunny day in July, 30 students from Lennox Middle School boarded the Matt Walsh in Marina del Rey, and set out to sea on the maiden voyage of our new Educational Marine Biology Adventures with Reef Check or "EMBARC" education program. Each trip is a 3-hour highly interactive marine conservation course, taught by trained marine scientists, that gives underserved students the chance to become marine biologists for the day. During the cruise, we motor off the coast, in hopes of seeing some large marine animals.
Funded by Los Angeles County, the on-board program provides training about the ocean, wind, waves, marine ecosystems and how to carry out scientific testing of seawater. There are several stations around the boat. At the Touch-tank Station students can touch the hard shell of a lobster, watch how a hermit crab eats, and feel the smooth skin of a sea hare. At the Plankton Station, students learn how to use a plankton net to catch microscopic plants and animals, and then use a microscope to observe their living plankton swimming across the computer screen. At the Pollution Station, the students learn how to test the chemical properties of seawater to determine pollution levels. Finally, at the Field Observation Station, the students use binoculars to watch diving sea birds, sea lions, dolphins and whales. The curriculum for the EMBARC program was designed to match STEM Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for middle school and high school students.
Some 50% of LA kids have never touched the sea, let alone been on a boat, and so know very little about the diverse marine life of California. The students have had some incredible encounters with humpback whales and even an ocean sunfish on our trips this summer. Excited screams indicate how happy these kids are when they see these amazing animals for the very first time.
Through this program, we hope to open the students' eyes to the wonders of the ocean world and raise awareness about the value of ocean resources, the threats affecting ocean health and possible solutions to these problems. Our ultimate goal is to create a new generation of young ocean ambassadors who will be willing to spread their newfound knowledge throughout their school and surrounding communities.
We are currently booking trips for our Fall 2017 schedule! If you would like further information about the EMBARC Program or would like to sign up for a trip please contact Katie Kozma at firstname.lastname@example.org.