As Summer Ends, and School Begins!

As the summer ends and Crystal Cove State Park’s busy beaches begin to quiet once more, get ready to start seeing the smiling faces of students participating in Crystal Cove Conservancy’s K-12 educational programs!  As local students are immersed in real scientific research at Crystal Cove State Park, they not only learn about our local ecosystems and gain skills that will help them become tomorrow’s environmental stewards, but also help State Park natural resource managers make informed decisions on how best to protect the places we love.

Crystal Cove Conservancy’s educational programs have seen incredible growth since launching in 2012. Last year, over 5,300 students visited Crystal Cove State Park to take part in community research projects at sea in the Crystal Cove State Marine Conservation Area or on land at the Michael & Tricia Berns Environmental Study Loop.  This year, even more students will participate in community science programs on land and at sea, contributing to the protection of Crystal Cove State Park through their research efforts.

The Conservancy’s flagship educational program, the MPA Science Cruise, is run in partnership with Davey’s Locker Sportfishing out of Newport Harbor.  During this on-the-water excursion, student researchers anchor off the coast of Crystal Cove State Park and collect data on plankton diversity, fish diversity, and the water quality. This year, high school and junior high school students will spend 70 days on the water, helping to monitor the health of the Crystal Cove SMCA. The data that they collect will then get added onto a large dataset that has been compiled for multiple years, tracking how the Crystal Cove SMCA’s ecosystem is changing over time.

On land, fifth and seventh grade students will help UC Irvine scientists and State Park natural resource managers learn more about the best way to restore Crystal Cove’s backcountry. During the Project CRYSTAL program, students collect data on how different types of mulch affect the growth of native plants, helping the Park’s managers determine the most effective strategies to use when restoring degraded areas.

This year, with support from the California Coastal Commission, The Conservancy is also excited to begin piloting our new Coastal Dynamics program, which will immerse high school students in monitoring how Crystal Cove’s beaches are changing over time.  This new program, which is also being developed in partnership with faculty from UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering, puts high school students in the shoes of environmental engineers, challenging them to build an understanding of local coastal dynamics and determine the best way to protect coastal dwellings like the Historic District’s beach cottages.

During the 2017-2018 school year, over 60% of the students who participated in The Conservancy’s educational programs came from underserved areas and under-resourced schools.  Many students reported that their visit to Crystal Cove was their first time on a boat or visiting California’s coast. With the help of our partners and friends, who help to support our educational programs through events like the Crystal Cove Soiree, Crystal Cove Conservancy will continue to grow our educational programs, contribute to the conservation of Crystal Cove State Park, and inspire the environmental leaders of tomorrow.

 

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