For the community in Santa Cruz, California there is no line in the sand between sea life and life. In a community that eats, sleeps, and breathes sea air it is only appropriate to have a resource center that dedicated to teaching others about the deep, blue sea.
On May 27, 2008 the Sharks Foundation presented a check in the amount of $15,000 to O'Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO), the local non-profit that focuses on providing marine science curriculum for low-income youth around the Bay Area. On the scene were, appropriately, S.J. Sharkie and several Foundation board members.
OSO was founded in 1996 by wetsuit innovator and surfer Jack O'Neill. A living classroom was created on board a 65-foot catamaran sailing in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where 4th - 6th grade students from schools throughout Central California receive hands-on lessons about the marine habitat and the importance of the relationship between the living sea and the environment. The program is conducted on board the catamaran with follow-up lessons at the shore-side Education Center at the Santa Cruz Harbor. It is free of charge, but students earn their way into the program by designing and performing a project to benefit their community.
The programs curriculum is designed to support the educational goals of the schools that participate and each of the subjects taught align with both California state and federal education standards. The three subjects taught are marine science, marine and watershed ecology, and navigation/mathematics.
Our organization has seen a trend in its low-income student participants that when they enter the program they have a lower-level understanding of their physical environment than that of their peers, said Dan Haifley, executive director for O'Neill Sea Odyssey. We find that at the end of our program students have caught up in their environmental education and are poised with excitement to further their understanding of the sea. Being the only absolutely free program of its kind for low-income families, this program will be able to continue its vision of free education through the direct donation of this $15,000 grant from the San Jose Sharks Foundation.
OSO has served 50,000 students since its inception. In 2005 the program received the prestigious California Governors Award in Economic and Environmental Leadership and in 2005 it received Senator Barbara Boxers Conservation Champion Award.
Most of OSOs work involves a one-day field trip supplemented by standards-based marine science curriculum for participating classes use before and after the field trip. In addition, the Adam Webster Memorial Fund, founded by Tom & Judy Webster when their son Adam passed away in 1999, provides the program for cognitively and physically challenged individuals.
The Sharks Foundation grant will be used for the costs of chartering boats, as well as supplies associated with the program. For more information on O'Neill Sea Odyssey, to volunteer or make a donation, please visit http://www.oneillseaodyssey.org/
or call Dan Haifley at (831) 465-9390.