THE FOLLOWING IS AN INSIDE LOOK INTO THE PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE OF BLUE ENDEAVORS
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Blue Endeavors is a nonprofit organization founded in February, 2012 with a mission to promote interest in, and create a passion for, ocean conservation and discovery. In August of 2017, Blue Endeavors opened the Dive Center/Community Hub, its first facility dedicated to ocean conservation, citizen science, ocean exploration and community action in Alameda, CA. This facility allowed Blue Endeavors to offer its programs outside of high schools to citizen scientists of all ages, from eager five year olds with home made plankton nets to seniors whose life took them on a different path, but love the idea of contributing to conservation research. As a community hub BE holds talks on ocean conservation, exploration, and science. BE also holds events like an oyster brunch, where the leftover shells are being cured for one year before becoming a new reef system in the Bay.
The organization achieves its goals of promoting research diving, science, and healthy seas through its programming, as follows:
1. Underwater Research Diver Training. Unlike traditional scuba certification classes that solely teach students the mechanics of diving, all dive training at Blue Endeavors introduces students to topics such as marine biology, ocean conservation, research diving, and marine archaeology with the goal of cultivating “citizen scientists” who are part of a larger community committed to understanding and conserving the earth’s oceans.
2. Research Projects.
Beyond awareness, education and advocacy, students at Blue Endeavors participate in real world scientific or conservation projects like completing indicator species underwater survey work, a coral reef restoration project in Bonaire implanting new rehabilitated staghorn coral back into the natural environment, or the creation of a new fishial™ recognition software and database for giant manta research in Socorro.
Blue Endeavors offers projects above the surface as well, such as a recent Stanford Woods Institute study on the use of virtual reality to impact real world behavior. Blue Endeavors will also soon begin collaborating on the development of a reef healthy sunblock, as well as an app-based guide to spending tourism dollars in countries that support ocean conservation.
3. Data Collection. One reason that ocean conservation has not received more attention or funding is insufficient data collection for research questions. With the exponential growth of the Internet and the development of powerful new cognitive tools, however, Blue Endeavors is committed to facilitating scientific discovery. Whether these discoveries take the form of building and deploying Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), participating in indicator species counts for marine protected areas, or photographing giant manta rays to chronicle migration patterns, Blue Endeavors citizen scientists add to the collective knowledge of our planet and powerful and meaningful ways.
4. Projects in High Schools. Blue Endeavors began by creating custom scientific dive training and certification curriculums for high schools. These courses take the form of lecture or lab classes and are stand-alone, or attached as a unit to existing marine biology, elective, or after school programs.
Each class creates an underwater classroom first in a pool, and then the ocean itself. Students learn and experiment with physics, physiology, engineering, and marine biology, with classes either complimenting or replacing traditional classroom delivery methods as we reach students of all learning styles.
The partnership between Blue Endeavors and a high school draws on each organization’s strengths and results in a program that has many elements in common with project-based learning in an engaging and substantial STEM program. The program also integrates research scuba diving techniques and emphasizes conservation-focused scientific research from the very beginning of the students’ diving journey. The program also instructs students in the importance of protecting the natural world, which students come to appreciate on a new level through intellectual work and direct experience. Many former students have followed through on their environmental values in a myriad of ways, including further participation with Blue Endeavor's conservation-focused research diving.
Our program is innovative because it combines the excitement and joy of scuba diving with the academic resources of the high school setting. The partnership between Blue Endeavors and a high school draws on each organization’s strengths and results in a program that has many elements in common with project-based learning (a much-lauded teaching method). Students get an engaging and substantial STEM program. Physics, biology, chemistry, physiology, mathematics, oceanography, and engineering are all touched on in an organic way.
Another major innovation of our program is that we integrate research scuba diving techniques and emphasize conservation-focused scientific research from the very beginning of the students’ diving journey. We have found that learning scuba often naturally engenders the desire to speak out as a witness and advocate for marine environmental issues. As an organization whose primary mission is ocean conservation, Blue Endeavors is well-equipped to nurture and develop conservation-mindedness in our students.
New divers use the natural sciences as a basis for problem-solving. The heat-sucking density of water calls for a wetsuit; the physiology of inert gases calls for careful dive planning; the use of a bag of gas (a BC) to help control one’s depth calls for knowing the ideal gas law. The intellectual component of these issues is complemented by development of physical skills during pool sessions.
Our students also go beyond basics and learn research diving skills. These skills, like operating a lift bag or using a diver propulsion vehicle, are used by professional scientists. For students who continue on the marine science path, this exposure gives their early career prospects a boost. For those whose future careers lie elsewhere, this experience is valuable as well. All citizens of a twenty-first century democracy need a relatively high level of knowledge and engagement with science.
Finally, we provide ample exposure to the ethos of protecting the natural world, which students come to appreciate on a new level through intellectual work and direct experience. Many former students have followed through on their environmental values in a myriad of ways, including further participation with Blue Endeavor's conservation-focused research diving.
Our goal is to connect as many people as possible to the oceans so whatever path they take in life, they make the small changes in their own lives that as part of a global community can make a difference. Along the way we are identifying, training, mentoring and acting as an incubator for the next generation of leaders in this field.
"I would like to thank you for inspiring in me a passion for marine biology. I will be following that passion to Duke University next fall. I thank you again for introducing me to the world of marine research and conservation, as it has led me down so many wonderful paths and I'm sure will lead to many more. Thank you so much" - S.R.K
5. Aquanauts, our youngest scientists and explorers (5-12 years old). Sparking an interest in science, exploration and ocean conservation at a young age, Blue Endeavors has created an original afterschool STEAM program. This program prepares younger students for the more challenging high school curriculum in a fun and relaxed environment, while encouraging the innate curiosity found in all kids.
ACCESS FOR ALL STUDENTS
Blue Endeavors has trained more than 600 high school students in open water and research scuba diving over the past five years. Thus far, we have run this program in relatively affluent private schools (with the participation of some individual students subsidized). With the opening of a community hub we are now brining this successful program to a more economically and ethnically diverse population and establishing a partnership with a public high schools geographically close to our newly-opened facility in Alameda, CA. Funds would support the purchase of program equipment (such as scuba gear). Transportation for the pool and ocean sessions will be provided for the students.
The school district nearest to us, Alameda Unified School District has a diverse student population: about 36% Asian, 29% White, 16% Hispanic, 8% Black/African American, 9% two or more races, 1% Pacific Islander, and .25% American Indian or Alaskan Native. Approximately 18% of students are English language learners and approximately 27% receive free or reduced-price meals (http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/Districtcontacts).
The specific student body demographics vary by school. For example, Alameda High School (less than a mile from our location) had 18.9% of students on free or reduced-price meals, 10.6% English learners, and an Ethnic Diversity Index of 58 in 2016-17 (https://www.ed-data.org/school/Alameda/Alameda-Unified/Alameda-High). At Oakland High School (less than 5 miles from our location) in 2016-17, 87.5% of students were on free or reduced-price meals, 24.9% of students were English learners, and the Ethnic Diversity Index was 56.
Whichever local public school we partner with, it will be a move in the right direction in terms of increasing inclusivity of our program. We anticipate using this first year of public school programming as a basis upon which to build an increasing network of public school connections in order to reach as many people in our area as possible. Over the past five years, we have honed our ability to help youth connect with the marine environment and have shown an impeccable safety track record. Now we are eager to bring this program to the more inclusive student bodies.
What is next for BluE Endeavors
1. Expanding our network of programs and curriculum across the country. The plan for Blue Endeavors is to bring our longitudinal studies, our projects, programs and curriculum across the country by establishing different Blue Endeavors chapters. Schools, community hubs, private companies, dive centers or organizations like Girls INC., Boy or Girl Scouts, all over the country can all bring on a Blue Endeavors program, as we have many custom options available to them for both above and underwater programs. We also currently have interest internationally from Sister Cities International, and will be offering some limited programming through this organization in the Philippines in 2019. Our first major expansion is scheduled for the Bellevue, Washington area.
2. Expanding our current facility into a destination science museum for deep water exploration. Currently Blue Endeavors collaborates with Dr. Sylvia Earle's latest project, Deep Hope, and with Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER Marine). Our plan is to create a destination interactive science museum and "Explore Store" that focuses on ocean science and deep water exploration with a new generation of 1000 meter subs to explore all the deep water trenches of the world.
3. Blue Endeavors Achievement Levels. Originally designed for our younger aquanauts, this program is getting a major overhaul in 2018 based on feedback from our adult citizen scientists. Think scouting patches for adults. Can you locate five different species of nudibranchs, and submit your sketches/photos and species information? You may just have earned your Nudibranch Level 1, complete with pins and patches for your dive gear. If you get trained and certified in coral reef restoration you will earn Coral Level 1. The newly designed program will release over social media in the Fall of 2018.
4. A Blue Endeavors YouTube Channel. Complete with:
- Short mission videos, like a throwback to the old Jacques Cousteau films that inspired modern ocean exploration.
- BE Talks. We are taping our community hub events and talks so we can release them to everyone online.
- BE Team videos. Staff, collaborators, instructors, students, board members, members, etc. will have have short videos so the public can get to know the Blue Endeavors team. Below is the first draft of one of these videos.
4. A social media awareness campaign. We will be launching a new social media campaign entitled, "One Simple Thing," to let people know about the issues facing the ocean, and the simple things they can do to make a difference.
We will be highlighting interesting animals and their behavior, new technology to fix the problems facing the ocean, stories about people and organizations doing amazing work in this field.
We will be also be using interactive infographics such as this one to explain issues facing the ocean and what people can do about it.
5. Blue Endeavors kids. We will launching a new campaign to target young kids. We will have a fun and educational app, posts, games and videos using a cast of original characters. They will meet and learn real facts about the amazing animals in the ocean. Watch out Pokémon!
Blue Endeavors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We believe the path to a sustainable educational program that benefits environmental causes must be based on a sound business model and not rely on charity for its continued existence. For example, our current facility does cover expenses through sales of gear and programs to students that can afford the services.
However, we are currently in a phase of expansion, and do need your help to properly fund our time-tested programs and organization's plan. We hope you realize that generosity during this time will enable our programs to reach the necessary level to be self-sustaining so that 100% of future donations can go directly to students who cannot afford the programs, and scholarships for the next generation of leaders in this field.
If you are interested in getting involved in Blue Endeavors, and helping us grow please contact Vince Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> to set-up a meeting or request any follow-up information.
Blue Endeavors, 2219A South Shore Center, Unit 215, Alameda, CA 94501