When I walk into Bank of America to make my deposit tomorrow morning I'll be looking for something special. B of A Employees across Santa Cruz will be wearing T-Shirts supporting O'Neil Sea Odyssey, an organization maybe best known for its namesake, Jack O'Neill, and the floating classrooms they provide focused on marine habitat and the importance of the sea. The ultimate goal is to teach future generations about protecting and promoting earth's most precious resource.
I first learned of O'Neil Sea Odyssey (OSO) from a flyer almost a year ago and hadn't visited their website since then. What a difference a year makes! As I scanned the updated site, I couldn't help but smile. There are colorful photos of kids in life jackets with the deep, blue ocean as their backdrop, in another shot students crowd around charts learning about sea navigation and one more image shows yellow and orange hued translucent plankton blown up on a projector for marine biology lessons. The imagery is a huge draw, but I was also pleased to find a site chalked full of resources for learners, supporters and educators alike. OSO provides great information ranging from curriculum and tips to prepare for a sea adventure with OSO, to fundraising events and the examples of community service learning projects.
As it turns out, community service learning is an important component of the OSO adventure. The program is free for 4th-6th graders but they earn their admission through community service projects. Pretty amazing, right? Here are some other very cool things I learned about O'Neil Sea Odyssey:
- OSO was founded by Jack O'Neil (yes, that Jack O'Neil), one of Santa Cruz's most beloved surfers and entrepreneurs, who put our fine city on the map with his invention of revolutionary wetsuits for surfers.
- Students experience marine life learning in a classroom like no other, aboard a catamaran with professional staff and crew. This is the real deal. We're talking sailors, surfers, scientists, environmental activists and educators.
- Nearly 17 years later the program has touched more than 65,000 students.
- This outdoor education experience takes place on-shore and off-shore, with learning goals that support ocean literacy, leadership skills, environmental responsibility and more.
- OSO has a neat blog with personal stories about their organization and the lives they touch.
Can you imagine the memories these students make on this adventure? What I wouldn't do to be a 4th grader again;)
So the next time you drive along East Cliff and pass by that sea foam green O'Neill house perched upon the cliff, think of the icon behind the wetsuit and how far reaching his legacy really is. I know I will.