“Canyon to Coastline” collaborative program brings classes of 6th grade students from Title l schools to the beach

This spring, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Laguna Canyon Foundation and the Laguna Ocean Foundation piloted a new collaborative program in Laguna Beach called “Canyon to Coastline.” This free program brought classes of 6th grade students from Title I schools to the beach to directly observe how their daily actions affect the natural watershed, how that impacts the ocean and marine life, and what they can do to help the ocean thrive.

Laguna’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) became a guiding principle during the students’ three-hour learning journey. The students experienced the crucial role of clean-up efforts and MPAs in maintaining healthy ecosystems. From the tiniest organisms to the kelp forests, healthy fish populations, marine mammals and humans, they saw the direct impact of their actions.

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Photos courtesy of PMMC

A PMMC volunteer working with the students

The field trip kicked off early with a firsthand look at how compromised watersheds can impact the ocean’s health and how ongoing efforts to restore the Aliso Creek watershed habitats is making a positive change.

Students followed the creek to the Treasure Island tidepools where they learned about the tidepool ecosystems and enjoyed identifying intertidal organisms. A big hit was the discovery of tiny crabs everywhere. They also learned about the effects of the wash from the watershed, which can nourish or harm tidepool survival. The word “nurdle” may be funny, but the reality of countless tiny plastic nurdles washing ashore is not. The kids used clean-up kits to help our beautiful Laguna Beach coastline remain beautiful. A big shout-out to their efforts!

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Students engaging in an activity during the “Canyon to Coastline” program

Their last field trip stop was Goff Island, where the kids participated in a mock veterinary procedure on a plastic trash entangled “sea lion,” taking vitals and the beginning steps of marine mammal rehabilitation. They also learned how to observe and record scientific data on the resident harbor seals and how marine mammals are indicators of ocean health. And a perfect ending to their field trip was a sighting of a favorite longtime local…Freckles, a 16+-year-old harbor seal!

After spending three hours at beautiful Laguna Beach, energized with positive ocean ions and excited about their new role as ocean stewards, the students returned with a life-changing sense of responsibility towards ocean conservation. This experience spoke a universal language, clearly showing the students the importance of ocean health and their significant role in it.

The collaborative program was funded by the California Coastal Commission and is expected to continue in the fall, shifting to a free opportunity for children’s after-school programs.

For more information on Pacific Marine Mammal Center, go here.

For more information on Laguna Canyon Foundation, go here.

For more information on Laguna Ocean Foundation, go here.

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