During the summer many students choose to disconnect from learning environments but others prefer to engage in local programs that can benefit them in the long run. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (W.A.T.C.H.) is a yearlong program that starts in the summer and goes through the school year whose main goal is to introduce students to the Pajaro River Watershed, different scientist, and open learning. The program is offered through the Monterey Bay Aquarium and has three very intensive weeks of learning during the summer; students visit many different agencies and scientist who are doing different research. We had the opportunity to meet up with the group several occasions. The group is very diverse and I was glad to see a good majority of Latinos being involved. Many were getting ready to graduate and seemed to show some interest in science and some still had a few years before they graduate but were eager to learn new things and possibly end up doing something in science as well.
We helped avian ecologist Carleton Eyster teach the students about the Snowy Plovers and the importance of having wide beaches with minimal human disturbance. This trip to the Pajaro Dunes was one of a kind; the students witnessed a newly born chick! Most of the time students get to see the adult at a distance but this time they had the privilege to see a chick up close in person. I think students got more than they expected and hopefully that experience will trigger something in them.
Later that week we met the group at Elkhorn Slough Reserve again to talk about habitats, tides, equipment such as plankton nets and secchi disk, and marine lab to look at the samples that were collected during the hike. The students were having a really good time connecting all they had learned about watersheds and habitats to what was going on at Elkhorn Slough Reserve. The students were being exposed to work that usually happens when in college and that opportunity is exactly what the student’s need. It was nice to see that there are programs out there that strive to equip future scientist with the tools they need to be successful. I would like to thing that meeting the group was rewarding to them and myself in the sense that they got to see a college graduate who is interning and volunteering with different agencies as a way to gain experience and knowledge. Hopefully the students got that message and realize that science can be done by anyone.