The Living Coast Discovery Center, a nonprofit zoo and aquarium on San Diego Bay in Chula Vista has received an $85,990 grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as part of the SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project.
The grant will enable the Living Coast to connect urban youth with nature and wildlife through a variety of programs, including field trips and refuge-based activities at the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Students in grades three through 12 will be able to participate in the Refuge Living Lab, an interactive field trip led by a trained Living Coast educator that focuses on the importance of wildlife refuges and environmental conservation. Students will participate in a variety of experiential learning activities, including the planting of native vegetation, animal encounters, scientific experiments and trail hikes on the refuge.
Additionally, the grant will fund the Living Coast’s Sweetwater Safari program, which provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the refuge trails, use scientific tools and learn about local plants and wildlife on the Sweetwater Marsh. Groups can choose to participate in either educator-guided or self-guided tour options throughout the year.
The USFWS grant allows students from local underserved and Title 1 schools to participate in these standards-based programs at no cost. This is the sixth year that the Living Coast will offer its Refuge Living Lab field trips thanks to the SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project. The Living Coast has provided no-cost field trip opportunities to over 7,800 students as a direct result of this program since it began in 2014.
“Our partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has enabled us to provide local students with a unique and meaningful educational experience that really builds upon what they learn in the classroom,” said Ben Vallejos, executive director of the Living Coast Discovery Center. “The hands-on connections they make between science, wildlife and the natural environment have a lasting impact. We’re thankful for the opportunity to get students out on the national wildlife refuge to bring these important lessons to life.”
“Our partners provide the spark and access for communities, neighborhoods, schools and families to be welcomed to the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Andy Yuen, project leader for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “The Living Coast Discovery Center opens doors for students to connect with nature and be inspired to be future stewards of the land.”
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