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Educational Projects

Guadalupe Dunes Exhibits and Ecosystem Educational Unit

Dunes CenterPoke your head in the Dunes Center on Main Street in Guadalupe and you'll likely find children looking at dragonflies or snakeskins under microscopes. Children and adults can be found sitting at computers, learning about reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, and birds of the dunes. Ask any one of the local participants, and they can point out their individual tile they painted that is a part of a large mural of the dunes, designed by artist John Iwerks.

The Dunes Center is a hands-on educational center for the Guadalupe Dunes. The Guadalupe Dunes encompasses 6,000 acres of sand dunes seaward from the Santa Maria River floodplain; this dunes complex runs for 18 miles along the coast located in northern Santa Barbara County and southern San Luis Obispo County.

The Dunes Center focuses on the Guadalupe Dunes' rich cultural, natural, and recreational resources. The Center's computer programs, videos, slide shows, displays, and puppet theater depict the rich natural and cultural history of the dunes: the Chumash who first roamed the dunes; the 1923 film The Ten Commandments, which was filmed at the dunes complex; and the natural dunes flora and fauna.

Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum's SEA IT!

Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum's SEA IT! ExhibitThe Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum's SEA IT! marine science exhibit gives some Santa Maria children their first glimpse into ocean life. The S.S. Discovery, a replica of a large research vessel, dominates the popular museum exhibit. Children can climb onto the deck of the boat, looking into microscopes with slides of marine organisms or enjoy interactive computer programs, such as a sea exploration. Next to the S.S. Discovery is a touch tank that gives the appearance of an actual tide pool, housing various live marine creatures for children to gently hold and observe.

Children can climb into the interior of the research vessel and enter a tunnel. As the children move through the tunnel, they pass through the various tidal zones, giving children the experience of the undersea world off our coast. Starting with the sandy surf zone, artificial marine plants and animals and murals appropriate for each zone decorate the sides and floor of the tunnel. Halfway through, the tunnel opens into the kelp forest section, which has strands of 12-foot kelp extending up to the tunnel roof. Lighting and sound throughout the tunnel simulates the actual marine environment.

The museum offers an exciting way for children to learn about the marine environment and, in turn, learn to respect and take care of their local coastal resources.

Santa Maria Valley Beautiful Earth Week

Santa Maria Valley Earth WeekResidents from around Santa Maria, Orcutt, and Guadalupe enjoyed a weeklong event in April of 1998 that honored the earth. Ending on Earth Day, the event increased awareness about the earth's natural resources, including local coastal resources at Guadalupe Dunes.

Wearing green ribbons, school children and community leaders formed a Green Ribbon walk to City Hall where speeches about the need to protect the coastal environment were heard. Two hundred people played a game on a gigantic map of the world. As the human population grew on the map, the players were challenged with finding sustainable solutions to global environmental problems, such as water availability, pollution, wildlife preservation, and increasing demands on coastal resources.

This weeklong event showed that learning important messages can be fun.

Los Marineros Marine Education

Los Marineros Marine EducationLos Marineros marine education program makes it more fun to be a fifth-grader in Santa Barbara. The elementary students heading out to a field trip to Anacapa Island usually encounter whales and dolphins. The students learn how these big animals feed themselves and how they keep warm in the cold ocean.

You'll often find these students at low tide on a local beach, searching in tidepools for sea anemones, crabs, and sea stars or digging in the sand, looking for sand-dwelling creatures, such as beach hoppers, isopods, and sand crabs. A pod of Los Marineros students may be gathered at the Sea Center, observing sea hares and urchins. All of these fun excursions focus on the student observing and learning first-hand about the diverse and amazing habitats and species found in the ocean.

The students are provided with marine science kits and audio-visuals to use in their classrooms. The Los Marineros Curriculum Guide offers information and lessons for upper elementary-level students on a wide range of general oceanographic and marine topics. With the combination of the curriculum and the field trips to reinforce the concepts learned in the classroom, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History hopes to develop within each child an understanding and appreciation of the local marine life and an commitment to its preservation.

Snowy Plover Video

Snowy PloverLife at the Ocean's Edge provides extraordinary and rare footage of the natural history of two of California's most threatened coastal birds, the western snowy plover and the California least tern. The narrator for the 20-minute video explains that snowy plovers use to inhabit the coast from southern Washington to northern Baja, Mexico. Today, only eight major breeding areas remain; the eight isolated areas are all located along the central California coast. Northern Santa Barbara County is home to 20% of the nesting snowy plovers.

The narrator explains that, along with natural predators, various human activities have resulted in the accelerated plover's population decline. The spring and summer months, when the beaches are most used by people, overlap with the nesting season for the plover. Beautiful close-up images of speckled, sandy-colored plover chicks, nestling in low depressions on sandy beaches, visually show the viewer how the tiny chicks blend in with its natural environment. Unfortunately, off-road-vehicles, horseback riders, people walking on the beach with unleashed dogs, and litter on the beach can impact the plover and least tern. This exceptional video informs people about the birds' lives and natural habitats and the need to be aware of these birds while sharing the beaches.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
~ John Muir

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