Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 10:06 am | Overcast 70º


Unique Cabrillo Aquarium Camp Lets Youths Dive into Marine Life Lessons

Cabrillo High School hosts week-long summer program for second- through ninth-graders in Lompoc


Students happily wiped glass, carried buckets and completed other chores while actually having fun and learning inside a Cabrillo High School building in Lompoc.

The Cabrillo Aquarium’s week-long summer camp for 45 second- through ninth-graders marked its fifth year of letting youths get hands-on learning about marine life during an extension of the unique high school program.

“It’s a great way to fundraise, but it’s also a great way to help our students continue being teachers with these young kids,” said Cabrillo teacher Jennifer Mason, who also is the aquarium adviser. “It’s also a way to continue to inspire our youth anywhere from second grade on up.

“It’s just a great experience to get the kids in the door and experience what it’s like to be an aquarist.”

Mikayla Barnard, an incoming senior, and Shayna Liberotti, a junior in the fall, share the job of leading this year’s camp, which also has approximately two dozen Cabrillo Aquarium program students serving as counselors.

Assorted sessions have special themes during the camp. One day focused on tentacles or octopus and jelly fish. Another day’s lessons centered on the tropics, including environmental concerns such as a coral bleaching and how to keep oceans safe.

“They learn about the importance of cleaning tanks,” Barnard explained. “Like keeping the fish healthy and happy is a big priority when we clean the tanks. It gives them a job to be proud of and to take responsibility for.”

In a classroom, one group of campers got lessons about the importance of growing coral. Next door, younger campers made turtles from yarn and popsicle sticks.

Older campers worked in the “pit,” or the heart of the aquarium, where key water quality and other equipment sit.

“It’s very vital that gets cleaned,” Barnard said.

On the final day, campers conducted the tours of the aquarium for their parents.

“We help them to take responsibility and gain new skills so now they can say I’ve cleaned a tank with a shark in it,” Barnard said.

Other lessons include educating their young students about the fish.

“They are absorbing it like sponges,” remarked Liberotti, who was corrected by one camper after inadvertently misidentifying a fish.

One young camper said he found the program educational as well as fun, adding summer is much more than playing games on a computer.

“I think the fun part was making the food for the animals,” the eighth-grader added.

During the school year, the Cabrillo Aquarium class is limited to sophomores through seniors. However, a Cabrillo Aquarium Club is open to students in all four grades.

Barnard got involved after hearing about it from family friends, and credits the program for more than teaching her about sea life.

“I was a little shy at first, but this program helps you break out of your shell,” Barnard said.

After getting involved during the school year, she worked as a camp counselor.

“Students learn a lot in this program,” Barnard said. “It’s like a once in a lifetime chance and I’m really, really happy I get to do this.”

She added, “I like talking about the aquarium; it’s really fun.”

While the 2018 camp ended Friday, the Cabrillo Aquarium will host an open house during Lompoc Valley Flower Festival weekend. That open house will occur from noon to 2 p.m. June 23.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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