Inland Kids Explore the Ocean

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Students and staff from KidWorks organization check out the Touch Tank at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. Photo by Sara Hall

A group of kids from a Santa Ana-based nonprofit organization learned about ocean exploration during a recent visit to the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum.

On April 4, about 20 high school students from KidWorks took a tour of the museum, learned about the current exhibits, touched sea creatures and went on a boat trip.

Most of the kids didn’t know a lot about the ocean before the museum visit.

“Only one of them has ever been on a boat before,” said KidWorks grant writer Jessica Steaffens, adding that the youngsters got” a lot of new information.”

The hands-on approach at the museum really helped them absorb all of that new information, she added, and the tidepool touch tank was a favorite.

KidWorks is an organization that works to restore at-risk neighborhoods in Santa Ana by building on the strengths and potential in the community through education, character formation and personal development.

This year, KidWorks is doing a program about careers in science, technology and math, Steaffens said. The kids went on several trips to learn firsthand about careers in these fields and planned to visit various local college campuses during spring break, she added.

“It allows the kids to explore different career fields… Expose them to all the different possibilities,” said Steaffens.

Tour guide Joel Wood explains one of the model ships at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum to students and staff from KidWorks. Photo by Sara Hall

The museum is a non-profit organization devoted to preserving and promoting the nautical heritage of Newport Harbor, Southern California and the Pacific through stimulating interactive and multimedia exhibitions, and inspiring education programs focused on nautical arts, artifacts, events and customs.

One of the rooms at the museum includes several interactive stations like a touch screen that features video about local tidepools, snorkeling spots, fishing sites and more, and the tidepool touch tank.

This section of the museum also features several locals that work in or around the ocean.

“The ‘Go Out and Explore’ portion of the gallery highlights different profiles in the oceanic community. It encourages that however (someone) wants to get in contact with the ocean, just go out there and do it,” said the museum’s guest relations and outreach coordinator, Lauren Nichols.

“When (people) see these animals in the ocean or tidepools it’s recommended not to touch them, not to bother them,” said docent tour guide Joel Wood. “So here, we’re actually letting (visitors) touch and feel and get to know them.”

Another exhibit, called “Extraordinary People,” honors local heroes. Currently, the display features Nick Scandone.

Scandone was born in Santa Ana and joined the Newport Beach Junior Yacht Racing program when he was young. He was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

He continued to sail and won the gold medal at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Scandone died of ALS in 2009. The exhibit honors his achievements.

The people honored in the exhibit will change from time to time, Nichols said. Residents can nominate people to be featured, but the museum board has yet to determine the criteria needed to be chosen.

The museum features several other exhibits, as well as speakers, programs and events. The KidWorks boat trip was provided by the Fun Zone Boat Co.

The museum hopes to expand on field trips similar to this with the continued growth of the museum’s education and school programs. The trips will be able to adapt to what is being taught in the classroom, Nichols said.

“The (KidWorks) field trip (focused) on the history of ocean exploration,” Ashley Eckenweiler, public relations, marketing, music and events director for the ACE Agency, wrote in an email. “Through a hands-on docent tour we hope to ignite a passion in the kids for the adventure the sea can offer, our local nautical heritage, as well as instill a sense of stewardship to protect and care for the sea.”





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