Friday, September 4 , 2015, 9:46 am | Partly Cloudy 70.0º




Adelante Charter School Students Take Learning to New Depths

Adelante Charter School sixth-graders recently spent a week on Catalina Island studying with the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

Adelante Charter School sixth-graders recently spent a week on Catalina Island studying with the Catalina Island Marine Institute.  (Adelante Charter School photo)

By Holly Gil for Adelante Charter School | updated logo |

Adelante Charter School students have recently returned from some amazing overnight experiences.

Adelante is a K-6 charter school committed to nurturing children who think, wonder and love to learn in two languages. They have found this happens naturally when children are given opportunities to participate and interact with the natural world. Even as adults, while we are exploring something that we are genuinely curious about, we learn!

What better place to experience this type of learning than in the ocean? This is where the seeds of wonder sprout!

All of the third-graders at Adelante Charter School have the unique opportunity to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium on an overnight field trip. There is nothing that compares to the pure joy and wonder that fills a child the first time they stand before the aquarium’s glass and see a blue fin tuna, sunfish or a school of sardines swirl past them. It is magical!

This ability to bring the ocean to life is unforgettable. The ocean is a huge unknown for children. Students spend weeks preparing for the trip academically, yet nothing quite prepares them for the moment they stand eye-to-eye with a giant octopus or watch a sea otter play with her pup in the bay.

One end result is that students return home with a greater respect for the ocean and the diversity of life within it. This experience has motivated students to make choices to protect and preserve its beauty.

This year’s sixth-grade class, the first group of third-graders to go to Monterey, spent a week on Catalina Island with CIMI (Catalina Island Marine Institute). The trip was paid for primarily through extensive fundraising and the generosity of our community sponsors.

One student expressed her deep gratitude, "I really appreciate all the people that donated to our class — we were so happy when we reached our goal and knew that we would be able to go!"

The students were able to go snorkeling, kayaking, experience the ropes course, learn about diverse algae and the anatomy of different fish in hands-on marine labs, and they even dissected a squid. Many of these experiences were a first for students, something they never dreamed would be possible as many don’t yet know how to swim.

According to one student, “Snorkeling was an especially amazing experience because I had never done it before. It felt like I was in another world. My favorite thing was swimming up close to a Garibaldi.”

The buoyancy of their wetsuits, a couple of shared boogie boards and a highly trained staff at CIMI made this seemingly impossible expedition a reality. The students learned so many new things, including facts about algae, invertebrates, sharks and even astronomy.

“I learned things I might otherwise never have learned anywhere else!” another student explained. “This experience taught us to love the ocean even more, and to understand that we play a big part in what happens to the Earth."

This was a dream come true for many of the students and an experience they will carry in their hearts forever.

At the end of this month, the fifth-grade class will visit Wishtoyo, a Chumash village in Malibu where they will sleep in ‘aps and experience first-hand the rich culture of the Chumash people; their relationship and dependence on the natural world and respect for all living things. Students experience simple, sustainable living in community. In previous years, students have come away with a greater respect for their elders and a better idea of what sustainable living can look like.

The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes have been the driving force behind a campaign to educate the Adelante community about the upcoming bag ordinance and the benefits of reusable shopping bags versus single-use plastics. Students are quick to point out that their own letters supporting this ordinance last year likely played a role in it passing at all. Now they express a sense of responsibility to educate the broader community.

It is important that everyone feels pride in Santa Barbara being a leader in this environmental area. To comply with the law is to help protect our ocean. Students are giving out cloth bags when students or families trade-in 15 disposable plastic bags. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bag when you shop!

— Holly Gil represents Adelante Charter School.




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