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Imagining a New Frontier for Ocean Education in Response to COVID-19

Bird and Habitat Study Field Trip earlier this year

During the month of March 2020, Ocean Connectors was well on our way to accomplishing all our goals for the school year at every public elementary and middle school in National City and 19 schools in Nayarit, Mexico. As we entered spring break, the planet was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has altered every aspect of our daily lives, and has fundamentally reshaped our approach to ocean education.

Ocean Connectors is working hard to develop virtual education materials to provide new ways to interact with San Diego Bay and the Pacific coast. By using our existing archive of video files and photos, combined with newly created digital content and strategies, we are providing our audience with remote access to ocean science experts, class presentations and trivia in webinar format, and virtual field trip expeditions, all from the safety of their own home. We are working closely with our School District partners to distribute these materials as fast as possible.

Photo by Jonathan Lavan, creator of Picturing Conservation video

We also launched our Connecting with Nature from Home social media video series. Each Friday we are posting 1-2 minute episodes filmed at home by our staff members to share conservation tips, information about backyard birding, outdoor recreation, and suggestions for connecting with nature during the shelter-at-home period. In lieu of our third annual nature photography workshop, we released the video tutorial Picturing Conservation: Beginner’s Guide to Nature Photography in partnership with Underpressure Nature Photography. We shared a blog on Environmental Activism from Home. And as always, all of the Ocean Connectors lessons are posted online for free public use on the Resources page of our website.

Of course, there have been several aspects of our work that we been forced to postpone until further notice. This includes our Eco Tour program, teacher appreciation event, Earth Fair, and a number of other activities that simply are not possible at this time. We recognize that it is in the best interest of our team, students, partners, and the general public to wait until it is safe to resume much for our programming.

While the current situation has been challenging in a number of ways, we are grateful that our team is in good health, and we are humbled by the sympathetic and gracious response of our partners. Our funders are responding with continued support, flexibility and understanding, in light of the fact that we will not be able to achieve all of our original goals for the 2019-20 school year.

Sea Turtle Discovery Field Trip at Living Coast Discovery Center earlier this year

This is certainly unprecedented in the history of our organization, but with continued support from the community, and careful planning for the upcoming year, Ocean Connectors will emerge stronger and prepared for what lies ahead. We will continue to pursue our mission of connecting underserved schoolchildren with the ocean, and pivot towards virtual education through the use of innovative strategies and new technologies that allow us to imagine a new frontier for ocean education.

Like many businesses, nonprofits are looking ahead towards a challenging and uncertain future. If you can, please donate to Ocean Connectors to support the development of our new virtual education programs at www.oceanconnectors.org/donate.

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