By: Katie Kozma, Reef Check Southern California Training Coordinator
Reef Check and Pasadena-based Outward Bound Adventures Inc. (OBA) have teamed up to provide an exciting new training program to young adults from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in marine sciences. Over the past two years, Reef Check has been growing its youth education program, Educational Marine Biology Adventures with Reef Check (EMBARC), that was launched in 2017. EMBARC is a hands-on marine education program that gives underserved inner-city students from Los Angeles a chance to become marine biologists for the day and experience the ocean environment first hand. During a boat trip, students gain awareness about the value of ocean resources, the threats that they face and learn about solutions that they can be a part of.
OBA is dedicated to engaging urban and low-income communities of color in meaningful, outdoor experiences and strives to provide outdoor exposure and environmental education for underserved youth. Since 1962, OBA has engaged more than 80,000 inner city urban youth and families in their unique programs. Working with Reef Check expands their outdoor education into the marine realm.
This new program combines Reef Check California’s citizen science training with our EMBARC youth program, to provide more people from traditionally underrepresented communities our citizen scientist diver training and to teach them how to provide marine science education to urban youth. Every year, OBA trains 30 young adults as wilderness leaders/instructors through its Diverse Outdoor Leaders Institute (DOLI) with a goal of exposing urban youth to national parks, forests and other wilderness areas. In February, we recruited 12 participants from the 2019 DOLI class to participate in our SCUBA and citizen science training program.
Throughout March, the DOLI participants completed their NAUI Scuba Diver classroom sessions to become SCUBA divers. At OBA Headquarters in Pasadena, they also learned about marine ecology and Reef Check California. At the pool of Dive N’ Surf in Redondo Beach, they donned SCUBA gear for the first time and got the chance to breathe underwater. The following weekend they were ready for their first open water dive. The conditions at Redondo Beach’s Veteran’s Park were a bit challenging, but all of them made it through the surf and did a fantastic job going SCUBA diving for the first time.
They finished up their NAUI SCUBA Diver certifications during a trip to the Casino Point Dive Park on Catalina Island. After several dives, there were happy faces and everyone was thrilled to join the ranks of the NAUI SCUBA family. If they keep up the diving and get some practice this summer, these newly minted divers will have the opportunity to become fully certified Reef Check California citizen scientists in the future.
In the meantime, they will learn how to teach the marine science instruction on our EMBARC trips out of Marina del Rey and help teach OBA middle school students during four trips later this year. We look forward to continue to imbue the DOLI students with a sense of excitement about the ocean, and raise their awareness of how scientific research, education and community engagement can help reverse current declines in the ocean's vitality, diversity, health and beauty. This work is funded by a grant from the Anthropocene Institute and we hope this is the first of many classes taught through this new collaboration of OBA and Reef Check.