Goal – The overarching SITC educational program goals are 1) to provide opportunities for underserved students to develop curiosity and aptitude for the sciences, marine conservation and a sustainable ocean environment, and 2) to inspire underserved students to choose career and higher education degrees in these fields.
Importance – SITC inspires Orange County and San Diego youth to get involved with STEM subjects and encourages them to pursue higher education and career paths in those fields. The program reaches more than 800 students each year. With the ever-increasing number of employment opportunities in STEM industries, it is to the California community’s benefit to have an educated, STEM-knowledgeable student population and future contributing citizens.
Background – HSWRI, in partnership with Get Inspired, Inc. and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, operates SITC, a hands-on STEM education program about aquaculture, sustainability and conservation through the practices of environmental science. SITC is an extension of HSWRI’s Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program, a comprehensive marine fisheries stock enhancement program. During the school year, this unprecedented learning opportunity allows students to personally grow, feed, monitor and implant a tracking tag in white seabass raised in their classrooms for later release into local oceans. The SITC fish release event concludes the growout of the current batch of white seabass, but the school’s participation in the program and plans for the next batch of fish are immediately finalized.
Methods and Results – The SITC program is evaluated on the successful growth, measurement, tagging, and release of white seabass by the students, as well as by pre- and post- program surveys of the students. The surveys evaluate students’ initial understanding of the scientific subject matter and educational interest in becoming the marine scientists, environmentalists, biologists, conservationists, and anglers of tomorrow. HSWRI aims for a post-program rate of 60% of surveyed students indicating future interest toward higher education, increased knowledge and career pathways in marine life, sciences and environmental studies. In addition, communication with school faculty and participant teacher support is ongoing during their participation in SITC and their shared experiences and satisfaction with the program is assessed during these frequent exchanges.
Why does this program matter? – SITC is both an educational and inspirational asset to the southern California community. With SITC, students from low to moderate income families, who might not otherwise be exposed to engaging, motivating science curriculum, have the opportunity to participate in the program. The program illustrates higher education and career options such as trade and/or industry positions in fisheries, aquaculture, life sciences, engineering and mathematics, expanding student horizons, increasing self-esteem, and raising life expectations. Teachers are looking for hands-on, creative, engaging ways to excite their students about STEM education and SITC fulfills this desire and meets California EIC Standards.
Funding and Donation Opportunities – Since its inception in 2010, SITC has expanded exponentially. The program now serves ten schools in San Diego and Orange counties with more than 800 students, but there are still many schools interested in participating in the program. The program’s annual budget is $144,309. Donor support is needed to underwrite current participant schools at $11,000 each, and funding of $30,000 is needed to hire a part-time educator to assist HSWRI in meeting the demands imposed by the program’s growth.