By Richard Kha, Ocean Connectors Youth Leader
Ready? Set. Grow!
As I lie on the rubbles of concrete on the Otay riverbed at 8:30am, my anticipation to meet these kids makes my head spin. I’m here with the Ocean Connectors team, and we begin to set up the site with the help of the National Wildlife Refuge team and a SeaWorld specialist. As the bus arrives, Frances – the executive director- and I wait by the curb waving to the kids. Frances introduces me to them as a young college student who will be asking them questions for Ocean Connectors, and I feel so cool, I can’t help but smirk. As we get off the bus, I try to compliment the kids in any way possible; immediately, a few of their faces begin to light up like the fourth of July. I can feel their confidence boost, and suddenly, I hear them excitedly asking me questions. Just five minutes ago these kids wouldn’t even look me in the eye, and now they seem antsy and eager for what a day with Ocean Connectors may bring.
The first activity is a competition where we either remove invasive plants from the natural reserve or clean up litter around the riverbed. When I ask the kids if they’d do this activity again, some reply, “Yes, I like winning and running around.” Others say, “Yes, it feels good to help the environment and work as a team.” The next activities require the kids to rotate between three stations: planting, using microscopes, and using binoculars. I ask the kids at each station the same question: would you do this again? Again, the kids respond by sharing how enlightening the experience is. At the planting station, I hear many responses along the lines of, “Yes, I love getting my hands dirty and digging holes!” and “Yes, I feel like the savior of the Earth when I plant, and I can’t wait to see how big it gets.” Many kids even name their plants, thoughtfully decorating their habitats with hand-picked rocks. The microscope and binocular stations spark a special curiosity in the kids. When asked if they’d use microscopes again, I receive responses like “I feel like I have x-ray vision, and I can’t wait to see more stuff!” and “It’s like I’m looking at another world – I can’t believe it!” At the binocular station, I hear, “I never knew there were so many different birds; they all look the same from far away,” and “I feel like I’m watching a movie in 3D.”
Ocean Connectors has given me a sense of direction and accomplishment. I’ve learned the importance of our Earth’s future and the kids who dwell upon it. Seeing a little bit of my former self in many of them, I’m motivated to share with them the beauty of nature while also hoping to help them find themselves.