January 31, 2007 – Dana Point, CA – Ocean Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing hands-on marine science, environmental education and maritime history programs for students and teachers, has been named the recipient of a $200,000 grant from the Toyota USA Foundation. The grant will allow Ocean Institute to expand its successful Watershed Education Program to reach an additional 900 fifth grade students in Southern California.
The Watershed Education Program is incorporated into schools' science curriculum and has grown to include participation by over 65 fifth grade classes, representing over 1,800 students in Southern California. The three-month program begins with a field trip to the Ocean Institute where students take part in a science cruise and field courses involving the San Juan Creek watershed. Working as scientists, the students research, analyze and discuss the impact of tides, weather, humans and animals on water quality. Students spend the next three months in the classroom developing an environmental science project related to a local watershed and the ocean, using the Program's method as the basis. Throughout this process, Ocean Institute works with teachers to provide support and connect them with area scientists and environmental experts for classroom visits. The program culminates with a "Kids Conference on Watersheds," where participating classes present their projects to board members and local leaders.
"We are honored to be the recipient of a generous two-year grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to expand our Watershed Education Program," said Daniel T. Stetson, president and chief executive officer, Ocean Institute. "This program uses standards-based, marine science activities including research cruises and immersion labs to inspire fifth grad students from all walks of life about the importance of watersheds and the ocean. But most importantly, this program immerses these inquisitive youngsters in science and encourages them to learn. We are grateful that the Toyota USA Foundation has chosen to partner with us to take this important educational initiative to the next level."
Based on surveys of area science teachers, as well as reports from The Pew Oceans Commission and The National Science Foundation Directorate of Geosciences, Ocean Institute found that there is a dire need for hands-on science experiences to assist teachers in meeting the State of California Science Content Standards and to broaden participation by underrepresented groups in the field of science. Through the Watershed Education Program, Ocean Institute targets underserved fifth grade students throughout the Orange County, many who are English learners and Hispanic and do not reside in communities near the Pacific Ocean. Through this program, many are encountering an ocean experience for the first time and experiencing science education beyond textbook learning.
"By bringing the ocean into the classroom experience, Ocean Institute is helping prepare students to become the next generation of environmental stewards and also understand the urgent need for protecting water, our most precious natural resource," said Patricia Pineda, group vice president, legal, philanthropy and administration at Toyota Motor North America. "The Watershed Education Program has already proven successful in reaching over a thousand students in diverse communities and we're thrilled to be able to help expand it to reach another 900 students."
The Toyota USA Foundation is a $42 million charitable endowment created to support education programs serving kindergarten through 12th grade students and their teachers in the United States, with an emphasis on mathematics and science. For additional information about the Toyota USA Foundation, visit www.toyota.com/foundation.
Founded in 1977, the Ocean Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to ocean preservation through education, setting the standards for "hands-on" educational excellence and serving as a leading resource for universities, museums, teachers and all others seeking to increase their knowledge of the ocean. The Ocean Institute is located at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA, 92629. Call 949-496-2274 or visit www.ocean-institute.org for more information.
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