California Coastal Commission


WHALE TAIL® Grantee Highlights




The WHALE TAIL® Grants Program is funded by sales of the WHALE TAIL® License Plate and donations to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Tax Check Off. The grants support programs that teach California's children and the general public to value and take action to improve the health of the state's marine and coastal resources. Highlighted below are some examples of recent grant recipients. See a full list on our grants map.

You can support the WHALE TAIL® Grants Program by purchasing a WHALE TAIL® License Plate or by donating to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund on the California state tax form.






KIDS for the BAY

Instructor leading kids at the beach


"When I say Muir, you say Beach!" calls out Cayla Naranjo, a KIDS for the BAY instructor who's getting the attention of around 50 third-graders who've just arrived at the seashore from their school in Oakland. It's a pretty big deal for them to be here; I'm told that last week when they visited Crab Cove in Alameda, they were thrilled just to be able to play soccer on real grass during their break. And they are excited. After they all wave hello to the ocean, learn about some of the species they might see here, and review safety rules, they get to take off their shoes and explore the beach. It's low tide, and they focus on the tidepools at the rocky shore where they see lots of anemones and mussels and some crabs moving around. They sink into the very wet sand. They shriek. They splash in the waves. They're told to only get wet up to their shins. That doesn't happen. They shriek some more. "This is the best day ever," says a breathless Ashley, completely unprompted.

This field trip is the last of a series of experiences these students are having as part of the Watershed Action Program, which also includes environmental education lessons in their schools, training for their teachers, and a community action project aimed at pollution prevention. A WHALE TAIL® grant funded KIDS for the BAY (a project of the Earth Island Institute) to develop new activities focused on ocean acidification and plastic marine debris, and to take coastal field trips such as this one.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator









California Exposition & State Fair



The 2016 California State Fair includes an exhibit called "Whale Tales" which educates visitors about California's coast and ocean, how people can help preserve these environments, and the animals that live in California's ecosystems. "Whale Tales" includes a story about a whale that encounters different environmental hazards facing the ocean, interactive stations for people walking through, and live furred and feathered friends during the Coastal Animal Show. Visitors can also talk with members of the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps who have learned all about topics facing our ocean and our waterways. This exhibit is open from July 8-24, 2016 and is sponsored by a WHALE TAIL® grant from the California Coastal Commission.








The Marine Mammal Center

Image of video, A Word with Dr. Whizzlepuff: Climate Change


The Marine Mammal Center received a WHALE TAIL® grant for a Climate Change Education Initiative to teach visitors about the effects of climate change (particularly on marine mammals) and how people can reduce their own carbon footprints. In-depth trainings for volunteers and staff prepared them to incorporate climate change education into docent conversations, tours, and programs for thousands of visitors at The Marine Mammal Center. Funding also supported the production of a short animated video for all ages created by students at the California College of the Arts. Please watch it here!








Volunteers cleaning up the beach

HEAL THE BAY
and
I LOVE A CLEAN SAN DIEGO



California has many Adopt-A-Beach® coordinators who are ready to work with community volunteers wanting to help keep our beaches clean. Two of those coordinating organizations, Heal the Bay in Los Angeles and I Love A Clean San Diego, have received WHALE TAIL® grants to run extensive, innovative, educational Adopt-A-Beach® programs offering a lot of extra elements. For instance, both groups deliver educational presentations about ocean pollution causes and solutions for volunteers before their cleanups. Both groups collect and track data on the litter collected. In San Diego, volunteers can adopt inland canyons with creeks that drain to the ocean. ILACSD also stocks supplies at a number of beaches so any visitor can conduct a spontaneous "do-it-yourself" cleanup. In Los Angeles, underserved schools receive transportation stipends so their students can learn, explore, and clean up at their beaches. Los Angeles volunteers can also show up to popular monthly "Nothin' But Sand" cleanup events. Anyone in southern California who wants to join the thousands of people already participating in these Adopt-A-Beach® cleanups is welcome to contact either organization to learn how to participate.








Family planting dune plants in the sand

Groundwork San Diego - Chollas Creek



Groundwork San Diego - Chollas Creek developed the Chollas Creek Climate Action Challenge for youth in urban southeastern San Diego with support from a WHALE TAIL® grant in our new climate change education category. The program taught students about greenhouse gases, global climate change, ocean acidification, and rising sea temperatures; the green sea turtles that live in San Diego Bay and how climate change and ocean pollution affect them; the benefits of urban canopies in absorbing carbon dioxide; and how to reduce energy consumption at home. After they conducted home energy audits, they unplugged unused electrical devices that still consume power ("energy vampires!"), calculated the savings, and made presentations to their families. The students also had the opportunity to grow native plants and visit the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista to observe the sea turtles and other marine life, study water chemistry, and explore the Bay.








Family planting dune plants in the sand

Return of the Natives



Return of the Natives is the education and outreach program of the Watershed Institute at Cal State Monterey Bay. RON has received a number of WHALE TAIL® grants over the years to support teaching students of all ages about native plants and habitat restoration as they collect and grow seeds and install native plants in sandy dunes near Monterey Bay. Most recently, RON received funding for working with children and their parents in Salinas to teach them about their personal connection to the local watershed and how litter in their schoolyards and neighborhoods ends up in the creeks and ultimately in Monterey Bay. They learned about pollution prevention at school, did field studies and a cleanup at a local creek, and continued their studies at the beach where the Salinas River ends up. In a special activity, their parents received bilingual lessons and information about outdoor nature and stewardship activities they can do with their children.








Family enjoying the Beach Buddy Adventure, Courtesy California State Fair
Family enjoying the Beach Buddy Adventure, Courtesy California State Fair   

California Exposition & State Fair



Add a splash of fun to your summer and learn more about our ocean by visiting "Beach Buddy Adventure" at the California State Fair from July 10-26, 2015. Enjoy frolicking otters, say hello to a tule elk, and learn about other coastal species and ways our inland behaviors affect creeks, rivers, and their coastal environments. Use a "Beach Buddy" map to earn your official "Beach Buddy Badge" by visiting various stations to explore environmental issues affecting the wildlife of coastal California. Talk with members of the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps who have learned all about topics facing our ocean and our waterways. There's even a giant sandcastle where you can learn about beach sand and a lighthouse with a bald eagle ready for your visit.

This exhibit won a national award in 2014 is being sponsored again this year by a WHALE TAIL® grant from the California Coastal Commission.








Students from June Jordan School for Equity
Students from June Jordan School for Equity   

June Jordan School for Equity



Thanks to a WHALE TAIL® grant, students from June Jordan School for Equity, a small public school in San Francisco, will have the opportunity to explore and investigate the nearby ocean and Bay. A science teacher at June Jordan wrote and received a grant to buy supplies like microscope attachments and binoculars and to bring biology students out into their local environment. Field Biology students in 9th and 10th grades were able to visit local wetlands, visit Candlestick Point, collect and classify oceanic plankton, and do a beach cleanup and learn about human impacts on San Francisco Bay. Marine Biology students in 12th grade kayaked in Elkhorn Slough to see wildlife up close and took part in a research cruise with the Marine Science Institute, conducting different marine science activities and finally getting to experience a boat ride.








Cabrillo High School Aquarium
Cabrillo High School Aquarium

Cabrillo High School



Whatever you're picturing a school aquarium looks like, the one at Cabrillo High School, near Vandenberg Airforce Base, is better than that. There are quite a few tanks, they're clean and beautiful, and the whole room looks very professionally put together. The entire aquarium is largely run by students, who do everything from animal husbandry and maintaining water filtration systems to teaching visiting elementary students from Lompoc (in northern Santa Barbara County) and hosting public open houses. My guides are two head curators, Ashley and Jacob (plus their faculty advisor, Chris Ladwig). Ashley is doing her senior project on creating two new tanks, the shark tank and the saltwater tank, where she's cultivated corals that are growing beautifully. Jacob loves "fun facts" and keeps them up at a steady pace: the flesh of the cabezon fish is green; decorator crabs stick small shells and pebbles onto their backs using their saliva as glue; the lines visible on a blue whale's chest are veins large enough for a human baby to crawl through. They also ask me some questions, like do I know what SCUBA stands for (I do, in fact).

I also see the classroom in the back, where earlier, fourth-graders spent half a day doing hands-on science activities around a kelp theme that high school students prepared and led for them. The classroom will be home to two wet lab stations that a Whale Tail® grant will help pay for so the high schoolers can hook up salt water tanks and conduct their own marine science projects.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator

Cabrillo High School Aquarium Classroom
Cabrillo High School Aquarium Classroom




Mattole Restoration Council staff in Petrolia
Mattole Restoration Council staff in Petrolia

Mattole Restoration Council



The Mattole Restoration Council works in California's remote "Lost Coast" and is headquartered in Petrolia, a town of around 500 people you can reach if you drive over an hour along winding, potholed, scenic Mattole Road from Ferndale in Humboldt County. If you stop at Petrolia's center and ask at the general store, you'll be directed to the town's only available office space upstairs from the community center. And there you'll find the knowledgeable, energetic MRC staff, who recently gave me a tour of their community and the work they do there.

MRC has a WHALE TAIL® grant for a Youth Environmental Stewards program being implemented through a partnership of local organizations. Each month during the school year, students (the future landowners of the area) at the different schools in the region get a classroom visit and a related field trip on a series of topics on coastal and watershed health. For instance, they learned about salmon populations and helped with a restoration project creating a cold water slough as a haven for migrating salmon. They learned about marine debris and then cleaned up trash from Mattole Beach. This winter they'll learn about nonpoint source pollution, visit local erosion sites, and study its impact on the Mattole Estuary. During the summer, the WHALE TAIL® grant supported internships for young adults to work on watershed restoration projects, as well as training for counselors at Lost Coast Camp to lead environmental stewardship activities for their campers.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator









Dr. Wendy Marshall, Director of Education, shows off a fun way to learn about overfishing.
Dr. Wendy Marshall, Director of Education, shows off a fun way to learn about overfishing.

ExplorOcean



ExplorOcean's Ocean Literacy Center invites the public to come learn about the seven principles of ocean literacy through fun, educational, hands-on activities. Design and drive an underwater robot. Compete to build the slowest-sinking plankton model. Give a weather report in front of a green screen. See how hard it is to catch fish when we remove too many of them from the sea. Located on the Newport Beach boardwalk at the former Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, ExplorOcean also offers a Maker Lab, a public lecture series, outdoor science activities, and programs for teachers to help educate their students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

A WHALE TAIL® grant from the California Coastal Commission is helping ExplorOcean teach ocean literacy to several hundred underserved children in the afterschool KidWorks program in Santa Ana. They started with hands-on lessons in the spring, learning how they are all interconnected with the ocean, and during the summer they are able to attend camp in Newport Beach for educational activities, a harbor cruise, tide pooling, a visit to Catalina Island, and more.








California State Fair Beach Buddy Adventure exhibit entrance
California State Fair Beach Buddy Adventure exhibit entrance

California Exposition & State Fair



Add a splash of fun to your summer by visiting "Beach Buddy Adventure" at the California State Fair from July 11-27, 2014. Walk through the mouth of a whale to enjoy frolicking otters, hang out at the beach house with pelicans, and learn about other coastal species and ways our inland behaviors affect their environments. Use a "Beach Buddy" map to earn your official "Beach Buddy Badge" by visiting various stations to explore environmental issues affecting the wildlife of coastal California. Talk with members of the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps who have learned all about topics facing our ocean and our waterways. There's even a giant sandcastle where you can learn about beach sand and a lighthouse with bald eagles ready for your visit.

This exhibit is sponsored by a WHALE TAIL® grant from the California Coastal Commission.








YMCA Point Bonita - My Home, My Community, My World
Fiona O'Kelly wears "poison oak gloves" to demonstrate plants to avoid.

Point Reyes National Seashore Association



Although rain was starting to fall, that didn't deter about three dozen students from Sutro Elementary in San Francisco from hiking down the hill as they arrived at the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center. They were excited to be starting their two-night visit at the Point Reyes National Seashore and they all settled down to hear an orientation from Program Coordinator Fiona O'Kelly (aka "Firefly"), who went over guidelines for their stay. The parts that seemed most crucial (like what to do if a bat gets in your cabin) were translated into Chinese by their teacher, and I learned a few things too—mice will nibble a fallen deer antler to get calcium; poison hemlock has formic acid just like red ants do.

By the time the students, their parents, and their dedicated teachers leave, they will have spent two days here doing science field studies, capping off many lessons in their classroom beforehand. A WHALE TAIL® grant to the Point Reyes National Seashore Association is helping offset the program fees for this school and others like it, so they can afford to come and learn at the wetlands, beaches, and hills of this beautiful and memorable spot on the California coast.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator









YMCA Point Bonita - My Home, My Community, My World
MLK Jr. Middle School students enjoying the Marin Headlands.
Photo courtesy of YMCA Pt. Bonita.

YMCA POINT BONITA



My Home, My Community, My World helps students connect with their local watershed, experience a visit to the YMCA Point Bonita, and realize that the ocean is in their own backyard. The YMCA received a WHALE TAIL® grant to work with students from the disadvantaged community of Marin City. Naturalists visited their schools—Bayside Elementary and MLK Jr. Middle School—and 4th graders spent a day at a nearby beach and a day at the Marin Headlands, 7th and 8th graders kayaked on Richardson Bay, and 5th and 6th graders had the biggest adventure of all. They toughed out a six-mile hike (with gear!) straight from their neighborhood, over the ridge behind them (where many had never ventured), and down through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area until they arrived at the ocean for a three-day outdoor education program at the YMCA. Throughout these experiences, all students were learning about the bay, the ocean, coastal ecosystems, and the importance of taking care of their surrounding environment.








Anna Cummins and Marcus Erikson, 5 Gyres Co-Founders, in front of exhibit
Anna Cummins and Marcus Erikson, 5 Gyres Co-Founders

5 Gyres Institute



Faces formed from melted plastic; a cast of a pregnant woman's body; large jumbled fishing nets—this is not your typical art exhibit or your typical educational content. But this creative collection has been put on display by 5 Gyres, which received a WHALE TAIL® grant for a traveling exhibit about the impacts of pollution in the world's oceans. The faces tell the story of plastic pollution through images of people who have contributed to the field of research on this issue; the pregnant body formed from ocean plastics illustrates the impacts of plastic chemicals on our bodies and unborn children; and the jumbled fishing nets remind us that they keep killing wildlife when they're left floating in the ocean. These pieces are part of "Saving Our Synthetic Seas," on exhibit at the Seed Gallery in San Francisco's Presidio until 11/8/13.

The grant for 5 Gyres is supporting other projects too, including developing a "plastic pollution report card" for different California beaches (based on the amount of plastics found in the sand), assembly programs in schools, encouraging some of those schools to become "waste free," and a student art contest. For more information and a short video of the exhibit, please visit 5gyres.org/education_and_exhibits.








Save Our Shores Beachkeeper volunteer
Save Our Shores Beachkeeper. Photo courtesy of Save Our Shores.

Save Our Shores



Beachkeepers clean beaches! On World Oceans Day in 2013, Save Our Shores launched the Beachkeepers program in Santa Cruz County with support from a WHALE TAIL® grant. Save Our Shores staff had been hearing from local residents that they wanted to conduct regular beach cleanups independently (beyond the Adopt-A-Beach events Save Our Shores already organizes), and that they were especially interested in taking care of "their" beach that they visit most often. Harnessing this interest and creating a network of like-minded beach lovers, the Beachkeepers program trains motivated volunteers to hold their own beach cleanups, gives them supplies and a uniform, and provides a forum for them to share information about their activities. They can post to the Beachkeepers Facebook page, blog on the Beachkeepers webpage, post data on what they collected, share photos, chat with one another, and inspire others to join the network.








Squid eyeballs!
Squid eyeballs!

Squids-4-Kids



At Stanford University, Professor William Gilly's lab not only researches the giant Humboldt squid, they ship frozen specimens of these fascinating creatures all over the country so teachers can dissect them for their students. With a goal of increasing scientific literacy and excitement for marine biology, lab members also lead squid dissections at special venues like museums and science festivals. This outreach program is a collaboration between Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. The squid are donated by sport fisherman or collected in conjunction with ongoing research.

A WHALE TAIL® grant helped pay for the Squids-4-Kids program to send these frozen giants to California schools. But it was a slow year, with El Niño causing fewer squid to be found than usual, so the grant also supported staff time improving the program's educational website. There, teachers can find a step-by-step dissection guide and a sample lesson plan, and anyone can take a look at some videos, more information about squid, and some very detailed (and very slimy!) labeled photographs.

(Professor Gilly has also written eloquently about the power of curiosity and exploration in fostering a child's love for the natural world, and he has kindly allowed us to share his thoughts here.)








Student tidepooling with Los Angeles Conservation Corps' Sea Lab
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps

Los Angeles Conservation Corps' Sea Lab



There's much more to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps' Sea Lab in Redondo Beach than you might think at first. At first, you might think it's a nice little aquarium with a big classroom in the back, and you'd be right. Indeed, there are tanks with different types of sea life in it, and you can walk around and look at them and learn about them, and they're pretty neat, including some giant clams and a tropical tank of corals that it turns out are acquired when they're seized by customs agents (!). But if you get to tour the facilities behind the building, you'll see much more going on. There are touch tanks (I learn shark skin feels like sandpaper), a tank of seriously large bass (rescued, like other fish here, from the once-through cooling systems of power plants), flounders that look just like a floor of sand until you start spotting their eyeballs, a whole project growing green abalone (they're beautiful), a lab run by Algalita Marine Research Foundation studying plastic samples from the oceans, a native plant nursery for coastal habitat restoration projects, and a separate building dedicated to teaching students about water resources.

I'm here because the Sea Lab has a WHALE TAIL® grant to support the Key to the Sea program, which teaches elementary students about watersheds, the storm drain system, pollution prevention, sandy beach habitat, and environmental stewardship. Young adult Corpsmembers not only host hundreds of school children on their educational field trips, they're also recruiting their former elementary schools to participate and they're learning how to lead workshops educating teachers about ocean life and marine conservation. As with the other programs here, the Corpsmembers work toward getting a high school diploma while they also work on environmental improvement projects and learn aquarium-related skills that help them find jobs later on.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator









Youth Community Service's Shannon Smoot, speaking to Menlo-Atherton High School students
Youth Community Service's Shannon Smoot, speaking to Menlo-Atherton High School students

Youth Community Service



The room full of teens at Menlo-Atherton High School and I don't start talking about watersheds right away. First, led by their somewhat-older-but-just-as-hip leader, Shannon Smoot, we go over ground rules; some ("Respect!") are more self-explanatory than others ("Don't Yuck My Yum!"). Then we do a few icebreakers, like arranging ourselves by birthdate without speaking or writing. Then we identify our personality type by color and discuss how that influences our leadership style and interactions with others. (The most common label in the room is "orange"—spontaneous, daring; my "gold" label is much more mundane—dependable, caring.) But finally we're treated to a presentation about watersheds from guest speaker Seth Chanin, Restoration Project Manager at Save the Bay. Some of the youth have already learned about watersheds during the summer, while others joined the group this fall and need to catch up. They talk about a range of topics including San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate, estuaries, wetlands, pollution prevention, and how 4 out of 10 raindrops in California end up flowing into SF Bay and out to the Pacific Ocean. Lastly, we view the first draft of a video they're producing about their summer service learning projects at different points along their local watershed—San Francisquito Creek, East Palo Alto marshlands, and Half Moon Bay State Beach.

This after-school life skills class is made up of teens from East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, outside the school's immediate neighborhood. Once the video is done, they will present it to elementary students in the underserved Ravenswood City School District of East Palo Alto to teach the younger kids about watershed protection. A WHALE TAIL® grant to Youth Community Service is helping make this project possible.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator









Students use an underwater Fish Cam to view sea life in the kelp beds.
Students use an underwater "Fish Cam" to view sea life in the kelp beds. Photo courtesy Crystal Cove Alliance

Crystal Cove Alliance



Helping meet the Crystal Cove Alliance's goal to "preserve the past, enjoy the present, and educate for the future" is a program series called "SNAP!—Science and Nature at the Park." Serving students and the general public, SNAP! includes a wide variety of programs at Crystal Cove State Park in Orange County including public exhibits and lectures, "Scientist in the Park" open houses, Marine Protected Area research cruises, classes on the beach for students with disabilities, and science instruction in a laboratory and on the water.

To help support SNAP!, a WHALE TAIL® grant funded a pilot program for Marine Protected Area citizen science cruises. Over 200 students went on seven offshore boat trips and used microscopes to count fish eggs and plankton larvae they collected; used fishing rods specially equipped with a camera and a monitor to view and document the different types of fish living in the kelp forest under their boat; and collected water samples to measure temperature, pH, and salinity. The grant also supported 120 high school students attending an ocean acidification lab. Besides covering costs for these students, funding was also used for purchasing digital microscopes, underwater cameras, and other equipment to use in future citizen science cruises. Finally, funds supported the design of interpretive panels educating the public about whales and other marine mammals.








Low tide at San Francisco's Pier 94, with Golden Gate Audubon
Low tide at San Francisco's Pier 94, with Golden Gate Audubon

Golden Gate Audubon



"Pretend you're a bird flying in the air," Anthony DeCicco, Education Director for Golden Gate Audubon is saying as I arrive. "You're flying and you see this green patch. What is it?"

"California!" comes one hopeful guess.

"It's Pier..." cues DeCicco.

"94!" comes the answer.

The green patch on the map he's holding is indeed Pier 94, and I'm there on a sparkling spring day after navigating past a whole slew of noisy trucks in an industrial area in southeast San Francisco. He's sitting with a group of maybe 18 third-graders from nearby Flynn Elementary, and they're overlooking a wetland at low tide near the bottom of Islais Creek that used to be a dumping ground before Golden Gate Audubon began restoring it. After they listen to this history, learn about how the pollution harmed wildlife in San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and get an overview of local wildlife and what they're going to do today, they break up into three groups. I go with the group that will be peeking under rocks where the tide has gone out. The assignment is to look for crabs and isopods, determine the gender and appearance of the crabs, and use a key to identify them. A boy named Jermaine is definitely not excited about this, but in less than five minutes he is jumping and whooping and yelling, "We found a big one! We found a big one!" (His schoolmate Jamal, who is also definitely not excited about this, will end up proudly showing me what he collected too.)
Golden Gate Audubon's Anthony DeCicco with Flynn Elementary students
Golden Gate Audubon's Anthony DeCicco
with Flynn Elementary students

Emma needs a partner, so I get to be her partner. Emma is wearing a pink baseball camp and she is excited about this activity. She loves handling the crabs and picking up the crawly isopods (think really big pill bugs with lots of legs moving very fast), which is my ideal kind of partner. I handle the collecting tray.

Other groups are exploring the wetland, removing litter, and using a spotting scope and binoculars to conduct a bird census. There are Canada geese, a curlew, and an osprey with a nest on top of a large industrial crane. We see a goose family with fluffy babies float by.

I have to leave at lunchtime, but one of the last things I do is taste a salt marsh plant called pickleweed for the first time. It tastes like salty grass—nothing like a pickle. Later on, students will be rotating activities and installing some native plants to help improve the habitat. Before the school year is out, they will also visit the upper end of the Islais Creek watershed (at Glen Canyon Park) and take their families to Muir Beach to explore the ocean. It's all part of the Eco-San Francisco environmental education program funded in part by a Whale Tail® grant.

Sylvie Lee
Grants Program Coordinator









A front yard is transformed by the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program
A front yard is transformed by the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program

Surfrider Foundation



The Surfrider Foundation's Ocean Friendly Gardens Program helps people apply CPR to their garden—Conservation, Permeability and Retention—to revive their watersheds and oceans. These environmentally friendly gardening techniques use less water, eliminate the use of chemicals, prevent or at least cleanse runoff, and create wildlife habitat. A Whale Tail® grant is supporting two Ocean Friendly Garden (OFG) education and training series—one in Santa Barbara County and one in Ventura County. Each series consists of five sessions: a Watershed Basics Class covering the fundamentals of CPR; a Hands-On Workshop in a highly visible garden to evaluate it for CPR and develop design ideas; a Garden Assistance Party to turn the garden into an OFG and post an OFG yard sign; returning to walk the neighborhood to identify gardens that could become ocean-friendly with a little help, or ones that are already eligible for a sign; and a special workshop for landscaping professionals.

The program keeps going even after the four workshops, because any recipient of a new garden agrees to serve as a model for the neighborhood and to "pay it forward" and help with creating another OFG in the future.

The series in both counties are underway this spring. To participate or to get more information, please contact Surfrider's Ventura County Chapter or the Santa Barbara Chapter.

A front yard before the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program A front yard before the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program A front yard before the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program
Before
During
Catching Rain









Sampling Pacific Mole Crabs at Fort Funston, San Francisco
Sampling Pacific Mole Crabs at Fort Funston, San Francisco

Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association



On an unusually warm September day in San Francisco, teens from Thornton Continuation High School in Daly City descended on the beach at Fort Funston, planted rows of orange flags near the surf line, and began scooping up sand at each flag. They would then run up the beach to their classmates, rinse the sand away, and see what they were left holding. Quite often they were left holding small Pacific mole crabs. Having done this before, the teens knew how to measure them and determine whether they were male or female, and after marking down the relevant data, they would return the crabs to their sandy home and scoop up the next sample.

These students were participating in the LiMPETS program overseen by the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. "LiMPETS" is short for "Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students." It is a hands-on science education program for middle and high school students, who monitor either the distribution and abundance of the Pacific mole crab (an important food web link on sandy beaches), or the distribution and abundance of 33 invertebrate and algae species at specific rocky intertidal sites along the coast. After the data collection is complete, students enter their information into the LiMPETS database, which is used by students as well as researchers to track the populations of key indicator species over time. A Whale Tail® grant is helping 1,500 Bay Area youth participate in this program.








Tuolumne Salmon Fry Release
Tuolumne Salmon Fry Release

Tuolumne River Trust



The Tuolumne River Trust operates the "Trekking the Tuolumne River" program which teaches elementary students in the Central Valley about the Tuolumne River, its value to the community, and how to be good stewards of the river. The program includes classroom activities, help in developing service learning projects, and hands-on activities at outdoor classrooms at the river to learn about watersheds, water quality, the riparian ecosystem, and the salmon lifecycle.

A grant from the Coastal Commission supported the addition of a coastal component to provide students with a more thorough understanding of the Tuolumne's connection to other rivers and the ocean. Students followed the journey of the salmon as they learned to trace the river on a map to the Delta and the Pacific Ocean, learned how river conditions effect conditions downstream, visited salmon spawning grounds during the fall migration, hatched salmonids in their classroom, released the salmon fry into the river, played games mimicking how salmon find their way back to the same river where they hatched, and traveled to the ocean to visit The Marine Mammal Center and Rodeo Beach in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This new coastal component was initially added at Salida Elementary School in Stanislaus County. It is a Title I magnet school for science, math, and technology, where two-thirds of the students come from underserved backgrounds. Their teachers received training so they could continue the program on their own. The Trust intends to expand this new component into other schools in the future.








Fresno students at the Kids' Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup in Monterey
Fresno students at the Kids' Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup in Monterey

Fresno Chaffee Zoo



What do kids do when they step onto a beach for the first time? Some look toward the horizon, others watch the moving waves, quite a few marvel at how unusual it feels to walk on sand, and just about all of them enjoy it. Fresno Chaffee Zoo has been bringing Central Valley schoolchildren to the shores of Monterey since 2001, and for some of them, the trip is their first opportunity to visit the California coast. The Zoo's Education Department is able to do this through Whale Tail® funding for the Kids' Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup Program. Zoo staff visit participating schools in the spring, teaching students about marine life and the ocean environment and how their actions impact the health of the ocean, even many miles away. Then in the second part of the program, the students ride buses over 150 miles to do something about the pollution problem they've learned about.

In May of 2011, 185 fifth-graders from Carver and Yokomi Elementary Schools in Fresno picked up 4,600 pieces of litter at Monterey Municipal Beach, which at first glance looked clean to begin with. What do some of them like best about seeing the ocean for the first time? "Its beauty," said one student. "Being next to it," said another. Besides conducing a beach cleanup, they also got time to play ball, dig for crabs, and find other ways to enjoy the sand and the water.








Oakland High School Sea Lion Bowl team members, courtesy of Katie Noonan
Oakland High School Sea Lion Bowl team members,
courtesy of Katie Noonan

Romberg Tiburon Center



What are the two most common ions in seawater? What does SCUBA stand for? What are zooxanthellae? San Francisco State University's Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies helps host the "Sea Lion Bowl" in northern California. Part of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, this is a challenging quiz-style high school science competition with regional events and national finals.

A Whale Tail® grant from the Coastal Commission is helping support the Sea Lion Bowl's Diversity Initiative, which recruits Bay Area public high schools that are classified as low-income or have significant populations of students of color. Once a school is accepted to participate, it will select up to 25 students to take part in tutoring and mentoring in the ocean sciences, field trips to marine science research or education facilities, practice sessions with other schools, extended-learning college classes in marine science, and an introduction to careers in the ocean sciences. Their teachers receive educational resources and professional development opportunities. At the end of the program, the students conduct team research projects and compete against other regional teams.

In 2011, two teams in the Diversity Initiative competed in the Sea Lion Bowl: San Lorenzo High School and Oakland High School. Congratulations to both teams, including Oakland High, which won the 4th-place trophy.








Superpowers! exhibit at Ty Warner Sea Center
Superpowers! exhibit at
Ty Warner Sea Center

Ty Warner Sea Center



The Ty Warner Sea Center in Santa Barbara is currently showing a one-year exhibit called Superpowers! It highlights local "superpowered" marine life of the Santa Barbara Channel, the "villains" that threaten them, and the ability of people to become "heroes" for the ocean through everyday actions

The exhibit is written in English and Spanish and starts with a superhero dress-up station where visitors can put on capes as they travel through the different stations. It is then divided into three areas:
  1. Aquariums and a touch tank featuring local marine species with especially interesting abilities ("powers") that increase their chances of survival (including sea creatures that regenerate and mantis shrimp which are strong enough to throw punches), and an interactive strength meter where visitors can compare their strength to the power of crab claws.

  2. A focus on threats to these species ("villains") such as discarded plastic bags or oil in the water and how people are also threatened by loss of marine life. This area includes a tank with floating jellyfish next to a tank with floating plastic bags (illustrating how the two look similar), an interactive watershed model showing how pollutants flow to the ocean, and fish swimming in an aquarium lined with simulated trash.

  3. Positive solutions featuring a computerized kiosk where guests can make pledges to be an ocean hero, an electronic matching game featuring solutions to ocean pollution, and real-life local ocean heroes, all of which are intended to inspire visitors to be ocean heroes themselves.

The Sea Center is operated by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. More information on this exhibit can be found at www.sbnature.org/exhibitions/730.html.








Camp S.E.A. Lab Girls Surfing Lesson
Camp S.E.A. Lab Girls Surfing Lesson

Camp S.E.A. Lab



Camp SEA Lab ("Science, Education, and Adventure") offers hands-on marine education programs around Monterey Bay aimed at fostering life-long excitement, scientific understanding, and a sense of stewardship for coasts and oceans. Programs include summer day camps, summer residential camps, an outdoor school, training for teachers, and workshops for families. Camp SEA Lab is affiliated with CSU Monterey Bay. Scholarships are offered to include youth from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

Camp SEA Lab's programs include a wide range of fun and educational activities such as: tide pooling, kayaking, learning to surf, learning to sail, snorkeling, researching marine animals, visiting the Seymour Center Aquarium, meeting with scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), learning about ocean science careers, building Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), examining plankton, dissecting fish, and learning about protecting the ecosystem of Monterey Bay.








Arcata Elementary School's North Pacific Gyre Art Installation
Arcata Elementary School's North Pacific Gyre Art Installation

Arcata Community Recycling Center



In June 2010, the Arcata Community Recycling Center completed an art installation at Arcata Elementary School depicting plastic debris caught in the North Pacific Gyre. The school collected empty plastic bottles and arranged them on the playing field in a giant spiral, symbolizing plastic pieces swirling in the Pacific Ocean. Students also made sea animals which were shown entangled in the plastic debris. The installation was photographed from atop the ladder of an Arcata Fire Department truck. View a video of the project here.

A Whale Tail Grant funded this art project along with the accompanying education program, which included the bottle drive, in-school lessons about the ocean and marine debris, beach cleanups, touring the Recycling Center, and recycling the bottles afterward. The project was documented on video by other students at Sunny Brae Middle School.








The Cesar Chavez Club organized a 'Friends of 47th Street Canyon' group in City Heights
The Cesar Chavez Club organized a 'friends group' for
47th Street Canyon in City Heights

San Diego Canyonlands



The non-profit San Diego Canyonlands was awarded a Whale Tail® grant in 2009 to organize residents in underserved urban areas into "friends groups" to revitalize nearby, neglected canyon open spaces and restore the native habitats. They found a lot of energy from the youth groups in City Heights including the Hoover High School Eco-Club and the Cesar Chavez Club. The Cesar Chavez Club is taking on a leadership role in the campaign to restore open space canyons with creeks draining to the coast in the urban community of City Heights, San Diego.

Eight Club members helped with grassroots community outreach to establish a new canyon "friends group" at 47th Street Canyon in City Heights. On a Saturday morning in June they helped distribute flyers to promote a free guided tour in 47th Street Canyon. The students also distributed information encouraging people not to use non-native plants that take over natural habitats in the canyons and information on reducing the use of polluting chemicals and fertilizers in home gardens. The tour was held on June 27th and was a smashing success with 40 attendees. A new stewardship group for the canyon was established with strong and dedicated leadership. They now have routine monthly stewardship events in the canyon. The Cesar Chavez Club has continued to support the canyon group efforts.

Cesar Chavez said, "The only way I know how to organize people is to talk to one person, then talk to another person, then talk to another person." The flyers the Chavez club distributed brought the community together to talk about their neighborhood canyon, learn about the importance of the unique habitats in it, and now they collectively are transforming this open space into healthy habitat that is a safe, enjoyable community asset.






Student decorating reusable bags with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Student decorating reusable bags with the
Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Pacific Marine Mammal Center's Pinniped Pollution Project



With help from a WHALE TAIL® Grant and other donors, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center launched the Pinniped Pollution Project in October of 2008. This program has trained and motivated over one thousand elementary school children to change their polluting behaviors and become stewards of the marine environment. After modeling how trash travels from their playgrounds and streets into the ocean and seeing the results of this debris on the marine inhabitants, kids make the connection between the animals that they find so compelling and their behavior at home. Compelled to change, the work of giving them alternatives begins. Students are introduced to biodegradable products and participate in a shopping game that highlights the differences in trash production and packaging choices. They then summarize their lessons on a cloth bag that they take home with them. This becomes their new alternative to using throw-away bags as well as a teaching tool that they use to share what they have learned with others. "I taught my mom what I learned about making sure that trash does not get in the ocean," says Kayla, a 5th grader from Roosevelt Elementary. "We thought we were coming to learn about what we could do to save the seals, when in fact we learned how to save ourselves and the world," says Shirley MacLean, a 4th grade teacher from Jackson Elementary school.