Education and Outreach
National marine sanctuaries are living classrooms where people can see, touch and learn about the nation's spectacular marine life and storied maritime history. Whether offering professional development for educators, hands-on field studies or hosting film festivals, we strive to bring oceans into America's homes and classrooms. Our education and outreach programs instill an ocean ethic and a commitment to knowledge that will touch hearts as well as minds. Below are a few examples of our commitment in 2005 to bring the sanctuary story to all 300 million Americans.
Education Opportunities for At-Risk Youth
Encouraging children to see beyond a world of hopelessness, particularly those in gangs or depressed neighborhoods, is part of a national effort to help all young people reach their full potential. Through our thriving partnership with the National Geographic Society, we continue to introduce under-represented students and teachers from around the country to our sanctuaries through the National Marine Sanctuaries Field Studies Program.
This program emphasizes a sense of place, interconnectedness of the oceans, as well as conservation and stewardship through hands-on field activities. Participants also worked with National Geographic photographers on documentation of their experiences that were later shared with their local communities.
Bringing Oceans into Classrooms
Approximately 3,500 students in our five national marine sanctuaries along the west coast are involved with the collection of rocky intertidal and sandy beach environmental observation data as part of the Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students (LiMPETS) network. Students participating in LiMPETS learn to appreciate the marine environment, as well as understand the importance of science and the need for monitoring the environment. Teachers and students input the information collected into the online database. The information is used by managers to track the health of rocky and sandy intertidal habitats.
We have also been reaching out to Spanish-speaking residents and visitors in California through MERITO, a multicultural program offered by Monterey Bay staff to involve the entire community in ocean conservation. Through the continued success of the program and its recent expansion to the Channel Islands region, large numbers of Hispanic community members and partners have been touched by programs like the Watershed Academy, adult education classes, and experiencing field work first-hand.
An exciting offering released this year is an online field guide that provides photos, streaming video and important biological information for more than 100 marine species from each sanctuary. The Encyclopedia of the Sanctuaries is part of a continuing NOAA effort to enhance public awareness, understanding and appreciation of the marine environment. Explore this compelling, online field guide on our Web site.
High Tech Learning Emphasized
Science and technology education has also been a big emphasis for the sanctuary program. Our national partnership with the Marine Advanced Technology and Education Center and Tufts University has advanced our Remotely Operated Vehicle program at numerous sanctuary sites around the country. This partnership introduces students to the world of ocean science and technology to help them develop the necessary skills to support ocean research and exploration.
Technology and integrated ocean observing systems has continued to be a focus for sanctuary education over the past year. Telepresence technology brings real-time, interactive underwater exploration to life. As telepresence technology continues to advance, opportunities for high tech educational programming will be made available in future years through various partners. An innovative OceansLive! Web site is under development to connect 300 million Americans with America's underwater treasures, as well as provide real-time ocean observing data that can be used in classrooms and beyond.
Connecting With The Public Through Film
Documentary film festivals are an effective way to educate people in an entertaining fashion. A few sanctuary sites are now working with local communities to host ocean film festivals. Gray's Reef staff co-hosted their second film festival in September. Drawing more than 2,000 people, the festival gives the site a way to reach a community who may not have an opportunity to access the sanctuary through either boating or diving.
"Film and video have been the most powerful force in revealing the complexity and beauty of our underwater world," said Sanctuary Manager Reed Bohne. "From the pioneering images of Jacques Cousteau to today's IMAX and digital films, our generation can explore the ocean frontier as never before."
Bohne added, "Gray's Reef is bringing this festival of ocean films to Savannah to celebrate marine conservation worldwide and to encourage a commitment to sustaining healthy oceans and coasts,"
Gulf of Farallones staff also co-sponsored the second annual San Francisco Ocean Film Festival that showcased films of marine-related themes, including a film on vampire squids.
More than three million Americans will learn about sanctuaries for the first time in 2006 when Jean-Michel Cousteau debuts his new six-part high definition television Ocean Adventures series on PBS. Throughout 2005, Jean-Michel and his team have been visiting and filming in sanctuaries for a two-hour America's Underwater Treasures film.