MERITO Community-Based Ocean Outreach Program
MERITO collaborates with K-12 schools, adult schools, and community groups to build upon and foster new community-based outreach for Hispanic youth, adults, migrant families, and community leaders.
The goals of MERITO Outreach Program are to:
- Increase ocean and watershed awareness and stewardship among Hispanic youth, families and adults focusing on Sanctuary resource protection and water quality issues and solutions
- Provide learning opportunities for getting involved in coastal clean-ups, monitoring efforts and other regional conservation and education events
- Build community ownership of our marine and coastal resources
MERITO Community-Based Outreach programs include:
MERITO Watershed Academy After-school Program
While the Monterey Bay Area is home to many marine conservation organizations, ongoing science programs for students in our local watersheds are limited. The Hispanic community represents over 47% of Monterey County’s population. This lack of long-term marine programming coupled with the local demographics shows a strong need to provide watershed and marine opportunities for our diverse youth.
The goal of the Watershed Academy After-school Program is to increase students understanding of watershed and ocean issues through hands-on field and in-class experiences while exposing them to careers in science and building pride and stewardship towards the local environment.
The MERITO Watershed Academy is filling a need for science programming to provide students both the academic strength and self-confidence to succeed in school and a greater sense of stewardship for our marine and coastal resources.
MERITO works in collaboration with Pájaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD), Monterey Peninsula Unified School District’s (MPUSD), Under the Big Top (UBT), Monterey County Office of Education (MCOE), the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County (BGCMC), CSUMB’s RISE program, and other after-school programs and natural resource management agencies to implement meaningful watershed and ocean experiences for students.
Watershed Academy students learn about plankton and insects at the Slough.
The Watershed Academy gives culturally diverse and underrepresented students the opportunity to experience watershed and ocean science activities through the use of local natural sites, scientist and field experts. Targeted audiences are 5th – 8th grade youth from the cities of Watsonville, Pájaro, Salinas, Seaside, and Marina enrolled in public and private extended learning programs.
Through MERITO Watershed Academy Teacher Trainings, MERITO prepares and actively supports participant sites to effectively engage students in watershed and marine conservation activities. The program helps them make the land-sea connection and inspires them to protect our special resources.
The Watershed Academy Activity Guide is part of a kit provided to teachers attending MERITO teacher trainings. This activity guide provides Watershed Academy After-school Program leaders and teachers with a comprehensive program including background knowledge and concepts required for each field experience; hands-on field and in-class activities; monitoring and restoration projects; bilingual worksheets and journal prompts to give students the opportunity to analyze their work and reflect on how each project relates to real world conservation efforts. The activity guide, adapted to specific local environments, is aligned with 5th-8thgrade California State Standards in science, language arts, and English language development. The MERITO Activity Guide was designed to help convey an intentional connection to the Monterey Bay watersheds and the MBNMS.
Watershed Academy students explore the mudflats with MERITO staff and Kenton Parker, Education Coordinator for Elkhorn Slough Reserve
The MERITO Activity Guide resource list includes field experts from organizations such as the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR), City of Watsonville Public Works Recycling Education Department, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, Save The Whales, Return of the Natives and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They offer their expertise for a variety of field and in-class experiences, while exposing students to careers in science-related fields. Some of the field trips include visits to habitats found in local coastal watersheds and beaches, and to local environmental organizations. MERITO staff and interns also provide bilingual watershed and marine expertise for various activities such as tidepool and sandcrab monitoring, storm drain stenciling, and mudflat explorations among others.
Watershed Academy students collect aquatic insects and test the water to learn about the health of their local creek
Through community service learning projects including clean-ups, restoration projects, and water quality monitoring, teachers help students build a sense of environmental stewardship and community pride. This program is funded in part through the NOAA Bay Watershed Education Training (B-WET) Program.
MERITO Adult Education Program
With the Hispanic community representing the largest and fastest growing population in the California central coast region and currently comprising of 32% of California’s population, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s MERITO program developed a partnership with local adult schools to deliver bilingual education and materials to successfully inform Hispanic community members about the threats to marine and coastal environments.
The goal of the MERITO Adult Education program is to provide bilingual outreach and education about marine and coastal environments resulting ultimately in active contribution to ocean protection by educated and engaged adults and their families.
MERITO Adult Education Program gives adult students practical tools and information to help them become ocean stewards through an interactive bilingual unit. The interactive units are presented throughout the year in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties by MERITO bilingual education specialists. Lesson plans are available to interested adult schools’ teachers and administrators.
The unit focuses on watersheds and ocean health and protection, coastal water quality issues, and other current Sanctuary issues. Through a Spanish or English interactive power point (depending on the classroom language level), MERITO staff conveys visual and verbal information about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the issues affecting the Sanctuary. Key vocabulary words are also taught during the presentation to help students with language development.
MERITO Staff explains the land-to-sea connection through a watershed model demonstration.
An introduction to Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) and California State Parks, Monterey County are also included in the power point as places one can go to experience the natural wonders of our watershed and the Sanctuary.
An interactive bilingual watershed model demonstration follows the power point presentation to solidify the land to sea connection through hands-on participation. Students are able to increase their understanding and awareness of ocean and watershed related human impacts and ways to prevent ocean pollution. One of the most important things adult students learn through these presentations is the role the ocean plays on our life and our influence on the ocean regardless of how close or far we live from it.
Adult students learn the role the ocean plays on our life and our influence on the ocean.
Written activities focused on language development and new vocabulary words are offered to adult school’s teachers as follow up material to the presentation.
At the end of the unit, free passes to the ESNERR are given out to all students along with MBNMS, ESNERR, California State Parks, and Monterey Bay informational brochures. Ways to get more involved are promoted such as current volunteer opportunities, upcoming community events focused on watershed protection and MERITO Family Field Experiences.
To measure the effectiveness of the adult education program, MERITO gathers evaluation data during each presentation. Since 2003, over 2,000 adult students were have been reached through these presentations.
MERITO Partnership with Migrant Education
Working with local School District's Migrant Education Programs, MERITO participates in Migrant Parent Conferences to build awareness about marine and watershed issues with migrant parents through a panel exhibit and direct information exchange between staff and parents.
In addition, MERITO staff conducts interviews to parents to learn about their knowledge of the sanctuary and issues of concern regarding the environment. For example, results from 37 surveys conducted at one conference told us that 25 out of 37 respondents had never heard of the MBNMS, and that 26 out of 37 respondents were "seriously concerned" about the use of pesticides in their community. "Kayaking" was the number one response to a question on suggestions for activities that would interest a family.
MERITO Kayak Day was created in response to survey results.
MERITO Partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium - Cartoon Contest
During the spring of 2007, MERITO worked in collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Latino Outreach program to conduct an environmental message cartoon contest.
The contest solicited cartoon strips from middle and high school students in the central California counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz. The goal of the environmental message cartoon contest is to educate the public about the importance of ocean stewardship. The cartoon entries supported the theme of protecting area watersheds and the coastal and ocean waters of the Monterey Bay sanctuary. This initiative was originated by Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary’s MERITO Program in 2006.
The MBNMS received over 200 cartoon submissions that promote the importance of water quality and protection of the watersheds that lead to the marine sanctuary.
Student Lorena Herrera from Alisal High School in Salinas was awarded the grand prize. She received $200 and her winning cartoon was displayed on the side of Monterey-Salinas Transit buses. The bus adds included bilingual text (English and Spanish) about behaviors that support ocean protection. Six other contestants from Alisal and North Salinas High Schools, Monte Vista Christian School, Rolling Hills Middle School and Monterey Bay Charter School received the runner-up prizes sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Art teacher Kathy Pearson from Rolling Hills in Watsonville received cash prize for the most cartoon entries.
Supervisor Simón Salinas with cartoon contest winner student Lorena Herrera from Alisal High School in Salinas.