The Windows-On-Our-Waters Environmental Education Program and the TidePool Cruiser
The TidePool Cruiser made its debut on Earth Day weekend, April 19, 20 & 21, 2002 at Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley as part of the Whole Earth Festival. Since that time the TidePool Cruiser has traveled more than 20,000 miles, appearing in more than 60 cities from Santa Cruz to San Diego. Educating students one classroom at a time, more than 46,000 elementary school children have participated in the program between 2003 and 2007. Nearly 750,000 members of the public have been in attendance at Earth Day Celebrations, science fairs, water education festivals and community clean-ups at which the TidePool Cruiser's exhibits were featured.
The sixteen-foot TidePool Cruiser addresses the critical issue of urban runoff and its effect on the marine environment in an exciting, innovative, and hands-on way. More importantly, participants are given the tools they need to help them make simple behavioral changes that will have a positive impact on the beaches and coastal waters of Southern California.
The school adventure begins with an assembly at which the issues of urban runoff and stormwater pollution are explained. At the assembly, hands-on demonstrations effectively illustrate where pollution comes from and how it can be stopped.
After the assembly, the students are led outside to the TidePool Cruiser itself, where they get a "worm's-eye view" of a storm drain full of trash, pesticides, oil, fertilizer and additional pollutants on their way to be deposited, untreated into our rivers, streams and other receiving waters. Most of these contaminants will wind up in our ocean and on our beaches.
At the rear of the TidePool Cruiser is the "Travelin' TidePool Touch Tank." Participants get to make a physical connection with some of the creatures from the sea. They get to touch living sea stars, sea urchins, kelp, marine snails, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers and other ocean life.
The "Examination Station" features preserved specimens of marine life which can be examined with magnifiers and a microscope.
And finally, the students go to the "General Store of the Sea," which is fourth exhibit of the TidePool Cruiser. At the "General Store of the Sea," visitors scan on a barcode of one of the dozens of products on display. A video monitor describes this product and its "Ocean Connection." For example, a student might scan a package of blueberry waffles and learn that alginates from kelp are used to "fix" the blue in the berries. (If it weren't for the alginates from the kelp, the whole waffle would be blue!) Similarly, the water cycle is illustrated when a student scans a bottle of drinking water, to learn that most drinking water comes from seawater as a result of evaporation, cloud formation, and precipitation.
When made aware of this complex and important connection between the trash and other nasty things in the gutter and the food on their dinner table, people are given a reason to care about the marine environment, and hopefully, they will be motivated to take action; even if they live a hundred miles from the sea.