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Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans

About MERITO | Community-Based Outreach Program | Multicultural Educational Plan

Community-Based Outreach Program

participants at a field trip to elkphor slough 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

Current MERITO Community-Based Outreach programs include:

  • MERITO Academy Program

Past programs include:

  • MERITO Adult Education Program
  • MERITO Partnership with Migrant Education
  • MERITO Partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium

MERITO Academy Programkids studying the slough

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 55% 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 MERITO Academy 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 Academy fills 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.

Over the past ten years, MERITO has worked 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.

kids using microscopes on MERITO field trip   kids on elkhorn slough field trip
Watershed Academy students learn about plankton and insects at the Elkhorn Slough.

The MERITO 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.

kid looking thru binoculars on field tripThrough MERITO Academy Teacher Trainings, MERITO 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 MERITO Academy Activity Guide is part of a kit provided to teachers participating in the MERITO Academy program. This activity guide provides MERITO Academy 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-8th grade 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.

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 38% 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.

MERITO adult education classThe goal of the MERITO Adult Education program was 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 gave adult students practical tools and information to help them become ocean stewards through an interactive bilingual unit. The interactive units were 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 Professional Development and College Internships

This program addresses the need for increased professional development opportunities for Hispanic-serving teachers focused on marine science and increased paid-internship opportunities for Hispanic undergraduate and graduate level students.

MERITO Watershed Academy Teacher Training

Over the past decade, MERITO has offered watershed and ocean focused professional development opportunities for teachers and youth leaders from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. The training is offered to schools and extended-learning programs participating in the MERITO Academy Program. The objectives of the MERITO Teacher Training include:

  • MERITO Watershed Academy Teacher Training
    MERITO Academy Teacher Workshop participants learn sand crab monitoring
    Educate participants about the pedagogical tools necessary to provide culturally diverse and underrepresented students with “meaningful” experiences in nature.
  • Train participants how to implement hands-on field and in-class activities in after-school Academy programs utilizing the MERITO Academy Activity Guide.
  • Provide participants with the resources and community contacts needed to incorporate locally relevant watershed and ocean issues into public education and extended-learning programs.
  • Support participants during Academy field and in-class activities through the use of local experts, scientists, and MERITO staff and interns.
  • Provide students with the knowledge to understand the land-sea connection, so they may contribute to the protection of our special coastal and marine resources and have the confidence to pursue higher education and careers in science and related fields.

During a 3-day intensive workshop, teachers and after-school program leaders receive instruction on real world application of hands-on field and in-class watershed, estuarine and marine science activities as they relate to Monterey Bay watersheds and the sanctuary.

These activities are drawn from the MERITO Academy Activity Guide, a unique and innovative guide adapted to specific local environments, aligned with 5th-8th grade California State Standards science, language arts, and English language development. The activity guide includes bilingual worksheet for students and highlights local field trip options; addresses conservation by providing alternatives when teaching students human impacts on the environment; provides resources to expose students to local scientists and experts, as well as to local watershed and marine conservation groups.

MERITO workshop participants return to their after-school programs equipped with the tools to encourage and inspire students to become environmental leaders in their community. The MERITO Academy program and training was made possible by a grant from NOAA Bay Watershed Education Training (B-WET) Program

MERITO Watershed Academy Teacher Training
MERITO intern, Ricardo Lopez, assists Watershed Academy students during an aquatic insects investigation.

MERITO Internship Opportunities

MERITO works with partners to increase Hispanic representation in NOAA and the science workforce by offering paid-internship and job training opportunities for Hispanic undergraduate and graduate level students.  MERITO interns help enhance our mission by helping us deliver MERITO after-school programming, adult education, family field experiences, and community events.  Interns make it possible to impart a broader range of programming while modeling successful Hispanic college students to MERITO students and families.

MERITO works with local colleges and universities to recruit, train and mentor Hispanic interns to assist MBNMS staff with implementing MERITO programs, collecting survey data, translation of materials, and bilingual interpretation during community events.  The internship program is a valuable tool in connecting college students to real world opportunities. One of our first interns, Claudia Pineda, was so successful that she now works for the Monterey Bay Aquarium in their Mar y Campo Program serving Watsonville High School students.

MERITO Watershed Academy Teacher Training

CSU, Monterey Bay intern, Claudia Pineda, teaches young girls the importance of protecting watersheds at a Mother's Day event at Elkhorn Slough

Bilingual Outreach Intern, Claudia Pineda, summarizes her internship experience:

“MERITO's intended internship goal, as well as my personal goal, was to provide outreach to the Hispanic/Latino population in Monterey County regarding environmental issues in their home communities, while at the same time increasing awareness of the Sanctuary and its importance.

My tasks to help achieve these goals were:

  • Surveying citizens of Watsonville to gain a perspective on what they know about the Sanctuary and resource issues,
  • Assisting the Watershed Institute pilot after-school program,
  • Bilingual interpretation during community events such as Dia del Niño at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Mother's Day at Elkhorn Slough, and the Artichoke Festival in Castroville,
  • Translating existing materials for the Sanctuary's MERITO website.
In terms of future career goals, this internship has shown me the importance of having a strong background in science in order to provide adequate outreach regarding environmental issues to all members of the community whether young or old and regardless of race. I am an Earth Systems Science and Policy major at California State University Monterey Bay. When I first started my internship I was concentrating in formal science education with the intentions of either teaching science in a traditional classroom setting or serving as a consultant who would teach science informally. After looking at the current, as well as the past, state of teaching in California I decided to design my own concentration in Earth Sciences. After graduating from CSUMB, I am looking to attend a Masters program, which will prepare me to work for a government agency and will also give me a strong background to teach in my community.”
Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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