NOAA California Bay Watershed Education and Training Program regional vignette

So we’re here in the Pajaro Valley, the
city of Watsonville. We’re about a mile from the beach, we’re connected to the
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. We have one of the largest freshwater
wetlands left on the Central Coast, which is hugely critical when it comes to
endangered habitats. And then we’re right next to one of the largest agricultural
valleys that feeds our nation. The wetlands are important for three
different reasons, you know, they’re homes to plant animals, they prevent floods,
they soak up the water like a sponge, and they also filter a lot of the pollution
and contaminants that runoff. NOAA B-WET is an environmental
education program that provides locally relevant opportunities for youth, K-12, and also for teachers. The B-WET program did help mold our Wetland
Stewards program in a lot of ways and made it stronger. Our mission is to
protect, restore, and foster appreciation of the wetlands of the Pajaro Valley. Both Green Careers and Wetland Stewards really advocates for a place-based
education in that we really push the students to get out there. I can tell you
that the wetland is polluted, but if you’re not out there testing the water
you’re not going to really know that. Having students look at, you know, the
amount of pollution going into our wetlands, which end up flowing to the bay,
having students look at whether sedimentation becomes an issue for
sensitive species. The “why” really is that we have something special here and we
are part of a global challenge that we’re all trying to work towards so they
can actually speak to the “why” just as well as any of our local leaders can now
which is really exciting. Here in California, the Central Coastline, we’re
the agricultural mecca of the world really and the kids are learning about
that place-based, locally relevant issue in addition to how to create a career
out of that. In addition to how to protect the environment through that career. For our Green Careers Institute the idea behind that program is hands-on
exposure to a variety of environmental careers. We are really hoping that
students will maybe head off to college and return back here with some new
skills by helping in the green industries around here. Wetland Stewards
has been a huge part of my success in environmental education and the informal
science community. I was told ‘you get to teach younger kids about the environment’
and that was really powerful for me. So, the beauty of this program is that while
its place-based education, the skills that they’re learning are absolutely
transferable no matter where they go. They’re learning how to be critical
thinkers and are asking the kinds of questions that are going to lead to
research projects that find us solutions to some of our biggest problems.

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