On November 14th, 2012, 75 high school students from the Academic Vocational Charter Institute (AVCI) took the first of several field trips to participate in real-life, scientific water quality research in their watershed. Students attended water quality training with Robert Ketley, Senior Utilities Engineer from the City of Watsonville, who enthusiastically volunteered to teach the students how to perform the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test for cyanobacteria toxins. Ketley captured their attention with compelling stories about the history of the lake, how the toxins move through the environment from Pinto lake to the Monterey Bay, how weather and water work together to impact toxicity levels, and the burdens the toxin places on humans and other animals, including risks from bioaccumulation and cyanobacteria's link to deaths in sea otters, birds, and pets.
Later, the students spent the rest of the day with volunteers who brought birding scopes, led nature walks, and conducted scavenger hunts, photography and film workshops, and watercolor and acrylic painting workshops. Students painted artwork that will be exhibited at Pinto Lake City Park, cafes, and other local places to bring attention to the work the students are doing at Pinto Lake. Students, teachers, and volunteers captured photos and videos that will be used to create a student-directed documentary film to tell their stories and share their experiences with the Watsonville community and other students around the world who are faced with water quality issues. Throughout 2013, the students will continue water testing and prepare community presentations of their fieldwork results to present at events like Earth Day and City Council meetings. Students will also paint a mural on Green Valley Road to translate their research experiences for the whole community and eradicate graffiti near Pinto Lake.
AVCI’s Principal, Bruce White, with the support of AVCI’s teachers, incorporated the SeaVibe Community, Water & Art project into AVCI’s yearly school curriculum in an effort to emphasize the importance of taking care of the local environment, to provide real-life scientific research skills that offer students a sense of place and belonging, and to inspire students to pursue higher education in fields that are relevant and meaningful to their own neighborhoods. To create links to academic role models, high school students participating in the project will conduct water quality samples with Professor Raphael Kudela and Graduate Student, Corrine Gibble, at University of California Santa Cruz, and visit UCSC Earth and Marine Sciences Department to learn first-hand about the behind-the-scenes lab methods used to analyze water samples. Students receive community service credit for their work, but more importantly, the field work, research skills, art projects, and public presentations will help prepare the students for college and job opportunities.
This program is possible through the generous funding from Audobon-Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship, and support from the SeaVibe Foundation, City of Watsonville, and University of California at Santa Cruz.
For information about how to get involved, please contact Jacqueline Rose @ email@example.com or 559-871-5045. Educators, artists, mentors, other professionals, and volunteers in every capacity are always needed!
You can read more about the problems Pinto Lake is facing and what the City of Watsonville and other agencies are working on to deal with the problems.