Middle schoolers visit Rivian to learn about the ocean environment from Rich German

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Scott Brashier

Laguna resident Rich German, photographer, author and founder of Project O, has made numerous presentations to young people at schools on understanding the environment and sea life conservation. However, for his most recent presentation, German and Rivian South Coast Theater partnered to bring a group of middle schoolers to the Rivian.

Prior to the January 25 event, German said, “Through a partnership I’ve created with the Compton Unified School District, we are bringing 100 of their students to the Rivian theater where I will do my ocean talk and then we are taking them to the beach and tidepools.”

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Rich German talks about his adventures off the Laguna coast

German has been paddleboarding off the coast of Laguna Beach with dolphins and whales virtually every day since 2010. An encounter with a pod of four orcas in 2015 garnered international media attention and connected him with some of the leading ocean conservationist organizations. When he learned firsthand about the peril our ocean and the marine life are facing, his hobby turned into a passion to protect them.

To spread awareness, German began visiting classrooms.

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Students fully engrossed in the presentation

“I’ve been doing a lot of these presentations lately, including multiple talks at Anneliese, Thurston and LBHS,” said German. “Plus, I’ve spoken a couple times to middle and high school students at Ocean Institute. And now it is exciting to expand and reach students whose access to the beach is more limited. I want to expose as many young people to the beauty and magic of the ocean as possible, while also educating them on the challenges we face environmentally.”

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German involves the students

“The nature of my talks, which is to share my ocean adventures with young people, is in total alignment with the Rivian ethos,” German said. “And the renovated theater with the huge screen, combined with the ocean as a backdrop, makes it a perfect venue. It’s a dream collaboration and we are planning to make this a series where we bring students there and to the beach on a monthly basis.”

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A student asks a question

Middle school class instructor Dave Parker said, “This is an excellent experience to both introduce new technology and talk about how to treat the environment responsibility – and to promote stewardship. This experience was valuable in joining them. They aren’t diametrically opposed, and it was an opportunity to marry the two.”

The students asked some great questions. Damien was interested in why German wanted to start paddleboarding. Other questions included, “What was the scariest and best adventure he’s had, to which German replied, “It was the same experience, encountering the orcas.” Olivia wanted to know if he’d ever felt that he would die in the ocean, and he had not.

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German paddleboarding

Clearly, the students were inspired by the talk.

Eighth grader Estrella said, “I learned how pollution affects the environment. Learning how whales migrate was inspiring; they will go so far to have babies.”

Leonardo said, “I was inspired by how Rich said it’s now illegal in almost every country to kill whales.”

Leah, Dayuna and Monserrat explained that they learned about taking care of the ocean and were inspired to protect the environment.

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Students at Rockpile – Heisler Park

“I was incredibly impressed by the students,” German said. “They were fun, respectful, kind and asked really great questions during my presentation. They also loved seeing the Rivian trucks and had a blast on the beach after. It was a wonderful experience for the students, and we are all excited to do it again!”

For more information on Rich German and Project O, go to https://project-o.org/.


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