Port Support Helps Coastal Ed Program Thrive

Chula Vista Elementary Coastal Education Program Continues to Thrive Thanks to the Port of San Diego!
Posted on 06/08/2022
Coastal Education

Chula Vista, CA- All teachers in the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) are invited to bring their students on a study trip to the Living Coast Discovery Center where they participate in a Coastal Education Program (CEP). The CEP connects students with the natural world through experiences on a wildlife refuge and with animal encounters. Over the past five years, the Port of San Diego has provided $62,780 for 24,230 students from 1,085.5 classes to have access to this fantastic opportunity, even during the pandemic. During this past school year 4,895 students from 215.5 classes were able to attend a Coastal Education Program thanks in part to the $11,500 in transportation and admission costs provided by the Port of San Diego. This funding was responsible for providing transportation to 70% of CVESD students attending a Coastal Education program this year. These numbers compare closely to pre-pandemic numbers, exhibiting the strength and resiliency of the program.

“The Port of San Diego has been a vital source of support for the Coastal Education program over the past 12 years because they have provided funding that eliminates transportation costs for some classes,” stated Karen Quirós, the Science Resource Teacher employed by CVESD to manage and teach the CEP at the Living Coast Discovery Center. “Teachers have different ways of raising the funding to pay for a Coastal Education Program experience for their students. Many of them ask for donations from students’ families, others are lucky to access PTA or school funding. When teachers have to come up with funds to pay both the admission and the transportation costs, the program can become cost prohibitive for many classes.”

The 2021-2022 school year was the final year of a five-year funding period from the Port of San Diego. During the pandemic students experienced animal encounters and engaging programs virtually. The transportation funding eliminates the major obstacle that teachers have to overcome in order to give their students this exceptional learning experience. The Port of San Diego has been a valued supporter of the Coastal Education Program over the past 12 years. During this time, funds provided by the Port of San Diego have provided exceptional education experiences to over 46,270 students from 1,887 classes.

The CVESD Coastal Education Program allows students to enhance the knowledge they are learning in the classroom by coming face-to-face with the flora and fauna in and surrounding the San Diego Bay. Students participate in a variety of inquiry-based science activities during the programs. They touch and observe crabs, crayfish, stingrays, tortoises and snakes, and they have up-close encounters with hawks, owls, eagles, fish, seahorses, sea jellies and sea turtles. They hike on the trails with binoculars to discover evidence of animals and view the local beach, mudflat and upland habitats. They collect plankton and water to test in the lab and view under the microscope. Some students plant native plants to restore the upland habitat so that species of plants and animals can return to the Sweetwater Marsh community. Other students participate in a beach clean-up to protect the health of the San Diego Bay. This year students have increased their Science Content knowledge and their Environmental Awareness knowledge by an average of 15% after attending a Coastal Education Program.

“It is exciting for me as a teacher to watch the students connect what they have learned in their classrooms to what they are experiencing during their program. I watch their eyes sparkle and their hands shoot up as they beg me to let them explain their new revelation,” Quirós explained. “The hands-on experiences they have motivate them to be completely engaged in their learning.”

When students attend a CEP they each receive a pass that allows a student and one adult to return to the Discovery Center on another day for free. From August 2017 to May 2022 a total of 2,467 people (309 paying customers) came to the Living Coast Discovery Center as a direct result of a student attending a Coastal Education Program. From April 2010 to May 2022, the entire time that CVESD has received Port Funding, a total of 7,849 people have returned to the Living Coast with their families due to the free pass they received from their Coastal Education Program. Students are extremely excited to return with their families and often act as the tour guide for them, showing them all that they learned. Additional community members then have the opportunity to become educated and inspired by the exhibits and programs. The free pass allows entire family units to gain a greater respect for their local coastal environment and the flora and fauna living in it.

“Not only is the Port of San Diego increasing the access for students to this exceptional educational experience with their funding, but they are also providing an opportunity for more of the general public to have a fun, educational and inspiring family outing,” Quirós noted.

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