East Cape High School Partners Up With Monterey Bay Aquarium

And the winner is at both ends. They could use some help, though
BY: JON & CHRIS COURTRIGHT

BY JOY STOCKE

If you live in, or have visited Los Cabos, it’s clear that we are in the midst of unprecedented growth. And, 2019 is shaping up to be one of the busiest years on record. Hotel construction continues apace and vacationers are spending more time traveling from Los Cabos up the East Cape to destinations such as Santiago with its waterfall and hot springs––home to the region’s major aquifer––and Cabo Pulmo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, whose marine park is one of the world’s most sought-after diving destinations in the world. If that’s not enough, the world’s scientists have classified Los Cabos and the Eastern Cape––where the Sierra Laguna Mountains meet desert and sea––as one of the most biodiverse in the world. Yet, we are in danger of losing our paradise.

Anyone who has lived through recent storms has dealt with flooded arroyos sending construction debris and assorted waste into the sea, damaged and destroyed homes, and our power grids that have gone down for weeks. As growth continues, we’re faced with the prospect that without foresight, planning and education regarding development, we are not only vulnerable to storm damage, but we also run the risk that our aquifers will run dry.This last fact is crucial for the families who live in villages, ranchos, and towns and who work the land, build the resorts, or provide municipal and social services.

“The question on everyone’s mind is not that we are in the midst of a development boom, but how do we develop the East Cape sustainably? Who better to become experts than the children growing up in our region?

Baja Coastal Institute, (BCI), based in Cabo Pulmo, contacted the Monterey Bay Aquarium in central California (MBA) to help with providing answers. In collaboration, they started a groundbreaking new program, Education to Action.

Education to Action works directly with the two main high schools in the region between San Jose and La Paz serving 750 students from 24 communities of 10,000 residents in small, rural communities and ranches. The students will soon become active voters and leaders and their activities and opinions will affect the knowledge and attitudes of their communities.

Under the leadership of the Baja Coastal Institute Program Director Deb Godoy, (a marine biologist from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur), educators, teachers and students are building a personal connection, and a hands-on relationship with the land and sea.

As part of the program, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in its 35th year of conservation education, welcomed to the Aquarium six teachers and two principals from the Eastern Cape where they joined 26 U.S. teachers to participate in its Project-Based Science Teacher Institute. Monterey Bay Aquarium has trained nearly 30,000 teachers in their teacher institutes and worked with more than 2.5 million students in their school programs.

This group also attended a four day experience at the outdoors fellowship program of Ecology Project International (EPI), on Espiritu Santo Island and attended a one day workshop with the Center of Biological Research of the Northwest, so the teachers could acquire new skills to bring into the classroom. All these organizations are recognized for their successful track-records running specialized environmental training programs.

In our efforts to inspire young conservation leaders, we have been proud and excited to collaborate with the Education to Action team as they integrate best practices in science teaching and project-based learning. We hope to continue to work with these dedicated teachers to support their students in recognizing opportunities to act for conservation and engage as agents of change in the world around them.

Beth Callaghan, Teacher Programs Supervisor, Monterey Bay Aquarium

The program has already seen some success. “At Los Planes and Santiago high school,” says Godoy, “teachers from math, biology and communications learned about how to teach in a way that is not conventional. Now, they are using projects that are based on the needs of their local region to teach their subjects. One of the projects is to measure the water quantity and quality, and to map the wells in our region to see how they are connected to the watershed. In both schools, they started science clubs and started a garden in which to grow vegetables and flowers sustainably.”

The students and teachers have learned useful tools to determine what research needs to be done and to recognize that the dynamics of living in a desert region, (that also relies on farming and fishing), requires analytical as well as hands-on research.

The most effective projects will be shown at science fairs and on a three city tour. In the meantime, teachers and students from Mexico and the US share experiences. The first two years of the program will include the participation of these two high schools. Every year at least 150 students will be enrolled in conservation and community leadership and will be active in 24 small communities and even smaller ranches. Based on the success of this pilot, we anticipate adding one more high school in year two and for this, more funding is needed to support educational programs and curricula that will not only train our students to work in the hospitality industry, but also to work on planning boards, monitor biological changes, and develop sustainable companies.

For more information or to make a donation, visit https://bcibaja.org. Your donation will help bring the dream of successful and ecologically sustainable development to our precious region. It will help bring training and sound scientific know-how to the students who are the future of the East Cape.

Joy Stocke has had a home in Cabo Pulmo for 15 years. She is founder and Editor in Chief of the online magazine, Wild River Review. She has published fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and has written about and lectured widely on her travels, focussing on food. Her most recent publication, a cookbook is: Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking. She is currently writing a cookbook about the food of the Los Cabos region.