Grant supports partnership between CI, NOAA, NPS, OpenROV, and two Oxnard schools, and also promotes environmental exploration and advocacy among students

Camarillo, Calif., July 28, 2014 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) is teaming up with two Oxnard schools, two federal agencies and private business on an educational partnership intended to inspire a new generation of environmental scientists and advocates. The University recently won a $60,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enabling it to launch “Crossing the Channel: An Inquiry Based Expedition.”

The hands-on educational program partners CI with Channel Islands National Park (CINP), Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), the underwater robot company OpenROV, and Oxnard’s R.J. Frank Intermediate School and Channel Islands High School. It unites students from middle school through college in ecological exploration and conservation in the Channel Islands, exposing them to various research, monitoring, engineering, data collection, and restoration projects, as well as the joy of science. The program is funded through the 2014 NOAA California Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program, which aims to enhance environmental literacy by supporting individuals to understand, protect and restore watersheds and related ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems.

“This partnership engages students in complex science while also showing them that they can play an active and valuable role in saving their environment,” said CI’s Dr. Cause Hanna, Manager of the Santa Rosa Island Research Station, and one of the grant’s Principal Investigators. “We hope this will be a transformative learning experience that cultivates a new community of Channel Islands stewards and inspires more students to pursue disciplines like science, marine biology and natural resource management.”

“Crossing the Channel” will pair students from both Oxnard schools, which have Marine Science Academies and serve predominantly low-income Hispanic populations, with CI seniors majoring in Environmental Science & Resource Management, CI faculty, and professionals from CINP, CINMS and OpenROV. These mentoring teams will develop and deliver curriculum with the R.J. Frank and CIHS teachers and guide the students through activities that help them to understand and protect marine life and ecological systems in the Santa Barbara Channel. Students in Elizabeth Meza’s 8th-grade marine biology class at R.J. Frank and 11th graders in Elisabeth Harrell’s marine biology courses at CIHS will be the first participants.

“Though we live close to the beach, it’s an unfortunate reality that many of our students have limited access to the ocean and watersheds,” said Harrell, who teaches marine biology and environmental science at Channel Islands High School. “This program allows them to experience environmental conservation, marine biology, watershed habitats, and increase their interest in STEM fields as they relate to the environment. It also provides encouragement for families who previously envisioned higher education as out of their reach.”

Commencing in September, the yearlong, unit-based program will prompt students to collect, analyze and present data, interpret the potential causes of coastal and marine environment degradation, and propose solutions. Throughout the program, they will learn from experts; visit local watersheds, coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and marine environments; build and use underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs); conduct research and monitoring aboard the NOAA vessel Shearwater; and work at CI’s Channel Islands Boating Center and Santa Rosa Island Research Station. Upon completing the program, the students will translate what they’ve learned into a public outreach project that they will share with schoolmates, parents and community members in a formal presentation.

"This grant allows us to mentor students as they conduct science in the park and sanctuary,” said Chris Mobley, Superintendent of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. “We hope this seminal experience inspires these local Oxnard students to pursue science and technology careers and to become community leaders, scientists, and environmental advocates."

“The benefits of this program exceed those of simply providing an outdoor experience,” said Russell Galipeau, superintendent of CINP. “It’s an opportunity for students to engage with STEM professionals and use project-based learning to develop their critical thinking skills. More importantly, they will develop real-world solutions and have the satisfaction of knowing they contributed to maintaining the ecological integrity of the national park and marine sanctuary.”

Learn more about NOAA’s B-WET program at http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/bwet. Learn more about the Santa Rosa Island Research Station at http://www.csuci.edu/sri/, or contact Dr. Cause Hanna at 805-437-3785 or cause.hanna@csuci.edu.

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands 
(CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more by visiting CI's Social Media.