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Becoming an Environmental Educator

By: Mariana Mireles, OC Education Assistant

From Student to Teacher

By finishing my undergraduate degree in Child and Family Development from SDSU in the midst of the pandemic, all I could do was self reflect on my journey. I reflected on internships, essays, projects, courses, and professors, all with the added stress of the pandemic. However, I learned that through all the long days and nights, and with the uncertainty of the future, my passion for children never faltered. I’ve always emphasized the fact that children are our future leaders, and valued their autonomy, or their right to think and feel for themselves. In school, there was some focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) based learning and curriculum planning, but the value for it was missing. This was an area I always wished to explore more. Therefore, post-grad, I had every intention to find an “outside of the box” position: one that would allow me to dip my toes in education and act as a stepping stone, yet still challenge me and my knowledge. Ocean Connectors became that stepping stone when I joined their team as an Education Assistant. Through the challenges and learning curves this school year as we navigated virtual learning, my official transition from student to teacher couldn’t have been more comforting.

Learning Alongside the Students

Due to the lack of emphasis in STEM or STEAM based learning when I was in school, I knew my studying was long from over. In order to become familiar with the STEM curriculum presented through our youth programs, I needed to, and continue to, review basic content of marine science. By attending and leading field trips and virtual presentations, I not only stepped outside of my comfort zone, but learned the importance of STEM based learning. I have seen firsthand the interest and excitement students have with science, and how that interest is only growing. I also experienced enthusiasm personally learning about animals, conservation, and all topics in between with the students. These experiences make me incredibly happy to support our mission in educating, inspiring and connecting youth to conservation and marine science. By learning alongside the students, and discovering that interest in science myself, I hope my efforts encourage them to work in science-based careers or become environmental educators themselves.

Growing as I Go

As I approach the 9 month mark working with Ocean Connectors, it all feels like a full circle moment. I was on the search for a position in education that would allow me to transition on my own time, yet still challenge what I already know. Getting my foot in the door with STEM based learning was the main challenge I needed to be able to grow as an educator. However, my professional growth could not have been attainable without Danielle, Ocean Connectors’ Education Manager. Danielle grants me the space to grow each day, and she has shown me what it is to be a passionate educator who is engaging and personable to the curriculum, teachers, students and partners that have helped us along the way. This position has also allowed me to grow in career building areas I never thought I would work in, such as outreach events, hospitality, website work, and overall great communication with others. I look forward to continuing growing as we transition back into in-person learning next school year, and experience another year with Ocean Connectors. I never imagined myself working in environmental education, but I have been fortunate to find myself in this position that allows me to implement conservation into my everyday life, and encourages me to learn and do more.

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