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Expand ocean education: O’Neill Sea Odyssey seeks support for hands-on youth programs

Presented by O'Neill Sea Odyssey
Main Street School fourth graders learn about marine biology
Main Street School fourth graders learn about marine biology aboard the Team O’Neill catamaran as O’Neill Sea Odyssey begins in-person programs again after pausing because of the pandemic.
(O’Neill Sea Odyssey)
(O’Neill Sea Odyssey)

In Santa Cruz County, the majority of our population lives within 5 miles of the ocean, yet do not possess the requisite tools, resources, or access to gain an understanding of our ocean ecosystems and their immense value.

The ocean is our backyard. It not only serves as a place of recreation and enjoyment, but is also a source of extensive education which every member of our community deserves to experience. This is why O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO) has been fervently working to share this experience with the most vulnerable and traditionally underserved within our community.

For over 25 years, OSO has provided free marine science and environmental education to 117,000 youth, reaching youth at a critical period in their development with a marine science experience that inspires a sense of stewardship and connection to our oceanic habitats. The program builds on knowledge learned in the classroom to provide students with an opportunity to observe concepts in the field and synthesize their experience with a student action project.

“The ocean is alive and we’ve got to take care of it!”

— Jack O’Neill, founder of O’Neill Sea Odyssey

Our approach is anchored in marine science including stations focused on marine biology, ecology and navigation, and utilizes best practices in youth development and social and emotional literacy. Central to the OSO mission is the core value that access to our natural world should be free and equitable.

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    Support O'Neill Sea Odyssey's Youth Education Program
    For 25 years, with the generous support of our community, O’Neill Sea Odyssey has provided our educational program free of charge. Contribute today to ensure that the next generation is provided with the opportunity to engage with our marine ecosystem.

A healthy, prosperous and safe future for California residents’ rests on today’s youth passionately connecting to our rich coastal environments. California’s future majority will be people of color, many of low to moderate income, and the capacity exists to create ocean stewardship.

Research has shown that engagement and access to the natural world can improve quality of life and overall health of under-resourced marginalized communities. Additionally, students who participate in environmental education see a 27% increase in test scores, with benefits increasing for English Learner students. Utilizing assessment data, student surveys show the OSO program is effective in increasing environmental awareness and knowledge by an average of 24%.

Read on to learn just how OSO is working to instill the value of ocean education within our community’s burgeoning youth.

Ripples of impact

Main Street School
(O’Neill Sea Odyssey)

O’Neill Sea Odyssey is working to increase the quality of life for local families, youth and our community by providing hands-on marine science education. Following their field experiences, students are asked to apply the lessons learned with a student action project. As part of the essential MWEE (Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience) framework, these projects are designed to be student-driven, and empower the learner to understand that their actions have a direct impact on environmental issues in their community. Because such stewardship takes place in their neighborhood, youth will not only feel pride and investment in their neighborhood, but understand their own role in it, as well.

Main Street School
(O’Neill Sea Odyssey)

Examples of prior projects include beach clean-ups, school-wide recycling programs, community gardens or civic engagement focused on a local environmental issue. As the participating youth learn that the results of their stewardship impact something as substantial as our oceans, their work instills a sense of pride and connection within our community and natural world.