In late August, four Santa Barbara schools had their marine protection efforts rewarded when they received banners announcing the schools’ status as Ocean Guardians. Named were Goleta Family School, Santa Barbara Charter HomeBased Partnership, Santa Barbara Charter School, and Washington Elementary School.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries awarded more than $115,000 to 23 California K-12 schools to become recognized Ocean Guardian Schools.
Before becoming Ocean Guardians, each school receives up to $6,000 in grant money from NOAA to actualize a school- or community-based marine stewardship project. At the beginning of the following school year, a formal evaluation process recognizes sites as Ocean Guardian Schools if all program requirements are met. These requirements include a successful project proposal, a kickoff assembly to involve the entire school, completion of a project with data collection, and a closure assembly.
According to National Marine Sanctuaries’ Seaberry Nachbar, projects must fall into one of five areas: reduce/reuse/recycle, water quality monitoring, dealing with marine debris, creating habitat, and restoration.
Since NOAA’s Ocean Guardian program’s 2009 inception, 35 California schools have had their projects funded, and 28 of those schools were recognized as Ocean Guardians.
The Santa Barbara Charter School HomeBased Partnership’s project that earned it the Ocean Guardian title implemented a year-long study of a local creek complete with habitat observations, GPS mapping, and data collection that culminated in a creekside cleanup and communication of findings to the community.
“California sets a great example for schools nationwide by promoting environmental conservation in their local community with funding from NOAA’s Ocean Guardian School Program,” said Larry Robinson, NOAA deputy administrator and assistant secretary for conservation and management, in a NOAA communication.
NOAA found that at the end of the 2010-2011 school year Ocean Guardian Schools removed more than 2,000 pounds of trash from beaches and neighborhoods, reclaimed 2,400 gallons of water, and kept 47,000 pounds of trash, recyclables, and food waste out of landfills.