680 Local Students will Dive into Outdoor Recreation & Ocean Related Activities after Months of Environmental Education with MERITO Foundation

Last fall, the MERITO Foundation launched a new program in partnership with De Anza School of Technology & the Arts (DATA) Middle School, Ventura Unified School District, and the City of Ventura, titled “From the Avenue to The Channel Islands” (ATCI). The program gives students from DATA, many of who reside in the community of the Avenue, the opportunity to take part in outdoor recreation and environmental education in their local community and in natural areas.

DATA students in the ATCI program have been learning about environmental, ocean and climate sciences, as well as participating in environmental restoration, exploration and monitoring. In addition, this month all 680 DATA students will partake in an array of exciting outdoor recreation activities, such as kayaking, hiking, surfing, sailing, and camping. DATA science teachers enrolled in the ATCI program, were given a variety of educational and recreation opportunities to choose from for their students based on specific grade levels.

The core focus of study for 6th graders in the program is watershed science.  Last December, students biked from their school on the Avenue to the Ventura River estuary with our partners at Once Upon a Watershed where they learned the importance of keeping our watershed clean. Students also planted vegetables and native plants in their native habitat garden and harvested lettuce as part of the Garden Club. In May, they will be catching some waves, taking surfing lessons with Surf Class at Surfers Point.

7th grader ATCI participants are immersed in environmental and ocean science topics, such as urban runoff, coastal and island ecology. Students have had field experiences at the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility where they toured operations, performed water quality testing and monitored wetland birds.

The focus of education for 8th-grade students in the ATCI program is on ocean and climate topics such as ocean circulation, sea level rise and plankton ecology. On April 12th and 13th, they will board the Mystic Whaler, a 100’ Tall Ship replica, where they will collect water samples, measure physical parameters, and identify plankton while learning the basics of sailing.

The pinnacle experience for all DATA students in the ATCI program will be 2 night/3 days camping trips to Santa Cruz Island! 220 students in grades 6 and 7 (accompanied by 30 chaperones) will camp, hike, kayak, and snorkel, all while learning more about the natural history of The Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. Approximately fifty 7th-grade students from DATA Middle School will partake in the first trip scheduled for April 26, 2023.  Subsequent trips are scheduled for May 10th, June 5th, and June 7th.

The ATCI program also provides DATA students with leadership opportunities as “Youth Outdoor & Environmental Stewards”. Currently, there are eleven youths chosen as stewards, who are providing 50 hours of community service.  They support MERITO and partner organizations at outreach events, field experiences, and assist with the DATA Middle School leadership program. As stewards, they also have the opportunity to job shadow professionals at work with our partner organizations, including the Port of Hueneme, Ventura Water, and Buenaventura State Parks.

The ‘From the Avenue to the Channel Islands’ (ATCI) Program of the MERITO Foundation is funded by the Outdoors Equity Grant, created through AB 209 and administered by California State Parks, Office of Grants, and Local Services.  The MERITO Foundation is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization based in Ventura, CA, dedicated to protecting the ocean by facilitating education, conservation, and scientific research opportunities for multicultural youth and their communities.

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