By Dr. Cindy Vasquez, Director of Educational Services at National School District and Ocean Connectors Advisory Board Member
Ocean Connectors and Director Frances Kinney have been an integral part of the National School District (NSD) for nearly ten years. I first learned about Ocean Connectors when I became Principal at Kimball Elementary School in 2007. At that time, Ocean Connectors worked with NOAA scientists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center to give Kimball students special access to the NOAA sea turtle research site in South San Diego Bay.
I attended one such field trip to the sea turtle research site. I was able to see the students work with NOAA scientists as they netted an eastern pacific green sea turtle, brought it to shore, and took a closer look to determine its “wellness”. Students observed as the scientists took pictures, measured, and weighed the sea turtle. The “oohs” and “aahs” (including mine) had us all hooked on this unique opportunity for our students. They were able to see wildlife native to our area, observe what scientists do to help conserve the species, and then go back to their classroom and share their experiences with other students at their school and beyond local walls to students in Nayarit, Mexico. I knew at that moment that the program had to be expanded to reach other students in our district and enable them to share in this same valuable experience.
Working diligently alongside Frances, The Ocean Foundation, and the board members and many organizations who help fund these efforts, I can proudly say that the Ocean Connectors sea turtle program is now offered to all fourth grade students in our district. Frances has also expanded the program to include the study of whales in grade five and the study of birds and habitats in grade six. As a result of this expansion, Ocean Connectors has a space to call their own in our district. From this space, lesson materials are prepared, field trips are scheduled, ongoing grants for funding are written, and the team works together on expanding the programs to our feeder seventh grade middle school students by introducing a new shark curriculum.
We look forward to a great future with Ocean Connectors in National School District and National City. Strong partnerships such as this one help ensure that our students receive real-world science instruction aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, while fulfilling the Ocean Connectors mission to educate, inspire, and connect youth for conservation. One of the outcomes of Ocean Connectors is building awareness for what’s around us and how we can have a positive impact on preserving the environment, so wildlife like the green sea turtles survive and thrive for many years to come.