Hello! My name is Jared Martin and I am a Dunes Center Education Intern for the Explore the Coast program. I am a 4th year Environmental Management and Protection major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Engaging children about the fascinating world they live in and inspiring them to protect it is a vital part of ensuring that future generations can thrive in a clean and healthy environment. The Explore the Coast program gives 5th graders at Mary Buren Elementary School the opportunity to engage in interactive activities that are both fun and educational. Over the course of 3 months, students learn about ecology, watersheds, and pollution. They also take educational field trips to gain experience. The field trips show that the subjects they learn about have applications in the real world. These lessons are designed to excite students about our environment so that they might pursue a career in the sciences.
It is truly amazing to see how these lessons and activities capture the students’ full attention. The kids become completely involved in the activities. One of my favorite memories is from the first day of the program. We had an activity where groups of students created their own ecosystems in a jar with live plants and arthropods. The children seemed hesitant at first but as we began to add in the various plants and animals they became intensely focused on their ecosystems. Each kid was hunched over the jar observing all the interactions between organisms in the jar. As I went around to each group, I was amazed by the amount of questions about the ecological processes occurring in the jar. Every single student was so eager to learn more about ecology. They were so engaged, we could have spent an entire day just talking about the ecology in the jars.
After the lesson was completed and the children were being sent home for the day, a few kids stayed behind to ask more questions. One of the students that stayed after class had proclaimed at the beginning of the class that she wasn’t interested in science at all. By the look on her face during the lesson, and her insightful questions after the lesson, I could tell that she was fascinated by the experiment (even if she wouldn’t admit it). Another student had so many questions after class I could have stayed another 30 minutes answering all of his questions. A third student who was passionate about art had excitedly decided to draw his daily observations of the ecosystem in a jar. He showed me some of his drawings and I was blown away by the level of detail and talent. Given the chance, it is remarkable how passionate children can be about learning.
The Explore the Coast program is funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy and Chevron.