Alumna Spotlight

Felicia Van Stolk

"Environmental education is so important because it connects students in the most natural way that they learn. Being immersed in nature allows their instinctual sense of wonder to take over, and curiosity drives the deepest kind of learning."

We've asked Felicia Van Stolk, one of O'Neill Sea Odyssey's past students, to share her thoughts about her experience with, and path beyond, the OSO program. Here's what she had to say...

I’m the Education Manager at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History today, but I attended the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program as a 5th grader at Valencia Elementary School. My classmates and I all thought it was so cool that our teacher, Patricia O’Neal, had the same name, even though it was spelled differently. While I don’t remember specific details of the program and curriculum, I do remember being on the catamaran and how exhilarating it was! Looking back on that experience now, OSO was certainly an influence in my path to studying marine biology and eventually applying my love of science and nature (especially the ocean) to environmental education.

As a student at UCLA, I majored in biology but managed to fulfill all of my requirements by taking marine science courses—at some point it became clear that I should just change my major to marine science. Throughout my years as an undergrad, I also helped instruct SCUBA classes where, for the first time, I was able to combine my love of the ocean with teaching.

That passion continued after college when I started teaching at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City. That’s when it suddenly clicked and I remembered participating in a similar program before (OSO). When I was enjoying the Sea Odyssey program I wasn’t aware that what I was learning was “environmental education”—it only occurred to me now as an educator myself.

At the Museum, I’m the go-to “ocean person” and I love taking care of our tide pool exhibit and leading beach cleanups. In this context, it is fun to connect the land to the sea and approach teaching about natural history in a holistic way, tying all ecosystems together.  

Environmental education is so important because it connects students in the most natural way that they learn. Being immersed in nature allows their instinctual sense of wonder to take over, and curiosity drives the deepest kind of learning. All types of learners can benefit from environmental education because it is so student-driven, and students who may not thrive in traditional classrooms can find things to connect to in the natural world.

I'm so happy that the new standards now emphasize how to think over a list of topics and vocabulary words. While the standards and trends in education are shifting to embrace that style of teaching now, environmental education programs like O'Neill Sea Odyssey have been doing this from the very beginning—facilitating exploration and allowing students to wonder about what they’re experiencing. We also know, anecdotally and by facilitating projects or keeping track of past students, that when a person loves even one thing in the natural world, they are more likely to continue to be curious about it and be willing to take action toward conserving it.

What does the ocean mean to you?

The ocean has always been a special place to me, and it means so many things in my life. It has been the meeting place for family and friends with so many cherished memories on the shore. It is also where I go to think—when I am sad or facing some challenge, it puts things into perspective and has a cleansing effect. As a diver, I feel just as much at home underwater as I do on shore. These are all things that many people who live on the shore may feel. Knowing how things work in the marine environment, recognizing animals and their behavior, being able to read the water, all of the things I learned by studying the sea has only served to deepen my connection and I am so gratified by this intimacy with the ocean.

Felicia, with her favorite teaching partner, a live leopard shark, at the Marine Science Institute.

Felicia, with her favorite teaching partner, a live leopard shark, at the Marine Science Institute.

Thank you, Felicia, for sharing your experience and unique perspective. Your role as an educator is a testament to your commitment to conservation and we're grateful for your support and dedication.

The Ocean Means "Serenity"
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Thank you to all the Live Oak Farmers' Market participants who shared their thoughts earlier today about what the ocean means to them. We had such a wonderful time on this beautiful October Sunday meeting the many visitors at our Sea Odyssey table. We're grateful to everyone who took time to participate in our "photo booth" as well as donate in support of our Ocean Stewards.  We hope you enjoy your new O'Neill Sea Odyssey tote bag.

The ocean means to surf and swim in my mermaid tail.
— Market Participant

If you missed us at the market, there's still time to show your support for our 100,000th Student Campaign. East Cliff Brewing Company is providing 25% of beer sales today until 9:00pm. Click on the business link for more information and directions to the brewery. Thank you!

Jack O'Neill & Harry Hind Endowed Fund
"Harry Hind and I were old-time surfers from Kelly’s Cove and Ocean Beach, San Francisco."

"Harry Hind and I were old-time surfers from Kelly’s Cove and Ocean Beach, San Francisco."

The Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Endowed Fund, which has been established at the Community Foundation of Monterey County, was made possible by two generous donations from longtime supporters Troy and Leslie Daniels, of San Francisco. Leslie is the daughter of Harry Hind, a pharmacist, inventor, and surfer whom Jack described as his best friend.

"Harry Hind and I were old-time surfers from Kelly’s Cove and Ocean Beach, San Francisco," said Jack O’Neill. "I had the idea to open a surf shop at the Santa Cruz Harbor, and asked Harry if he could back me on the deal. He said he would. Then Harry brought in a CPA and an attorney, and our surf shack became an 8,500-square-foot building. We got approval from the harbor and built it in 1965. In 2000, Harry and I donated this building to the Sea Odyssey, to have this wonderful facility and revenue from rental space. Harry and I had a lifelong interest in the ocean, and his generosity has helped to make this program possible."

In 2004, O’Neill Sea Odyssey and the Santa Cruz Harbor jointly renovated the building, with O’Neill Sea Odyssey taking the upstairs under a 25-year lease and the harbor taking over the downstairs area. O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s portion of the renovation was funded largely by grants and donations. As O’Neill Sea Odyssey approaches its 100,000th student milestone, the Fund will help to support its work in perpetuity.

We are truly grateful to Troy and Leslie for their generous contributions. To help support O'Neill Sea Odyssey in an ongoing way like the Daniels, you too, can establish a fund or name OSO in your will or estate plan. O’Neill Sea Odyssey can also accept gifts of stock and property through its endowed fund at the Community Foundation – Santa Cruz County.

To learn more, please contact Dan Haifley.


Campaign Sponsorship
We’re pleased to announce that Nordic Naturals is a Bronze Sponsor of our 100,000th Student Campaign. In honor of this, we’ve asked them to share their thoughts about their unique connection to our community. Here’s what they had to say…

At Nordic Naturals, giving is in our DNA. In addition to seeking out global efforts, we look for ways to get involved in our local community. It gives us a chance to make a real difference in other people’s lives, right where we live.

As a company that makes omega-3 fish oil, we know that our presence is felt in the oceans where we source our fish, and in the communities where we make and distribute our products. We see it as our responsibility to do right by the people and the places that are part of our success.

It’s with this in mind that we’ve chosen to sponsor O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s 100,000th Student Campaign. Healthy oceans are vital to everyone’s survival. They produce the oxygen we breathe, the weather that sustains our waterways, and much of our food. The oceans are also the source of many of the essential nutrients we all need to stay healthy.

We pride ourselves on being a sustainable brand. We use only non-endangered, wild-caught fish, and we source exclusively from Friend of the Sea-certified, sustainable fisheries. We process all our fish oils in Norway, at our net-zero manufacturing facility powered entirely by biofuel. And, we bottle all our products in recyclable glass or #2 plastic containers, and use recycled materials in all our packaging.

Our goal is to make a positive impact on the communities where we live and work, both now and for generations to come. O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s hands-on approach to education about the protection and preservation of our living sea and communities helps us continue reaching toward that goal. Together, we can create positive ripple effects with our actions!


Thank you, Nordic Naturals!

From the bottom of our oceans, we are grateful for your support.

Business Spotlight

Love Mondays

"One way to express love is through kindness. Discretion Brewing is committed to being kind to our community. That's why the word is in our logo, along with wisdom and wit."

We're proud to announce that Discretion Brewing is supporting our Ocean Stewards through their Love Mondays benefit program. We’ve asked them to share their thoughts about their unique connection to our community. Here’s what they had to say…

We define DISCRETION as wisdom, wit and kindness. These qualities shape our interactions with each other, our ever-growing circle of customers, our community, and our beer. At Discretion, we care deeply for the world we live in and believe our beer should be responsibly-made. That’s why our beer is crafted from 100% organic malts and hops and why we harness the power of the sun to brew our beer. Whether you choose an old favorite or one of many seasonal beers offered throughout the year, you will find goodness in your glass–organic, solar-powered, and delicious.

Once upon a time, and again and again, Rob, Kathleen, Lars, Brianna, and Dustin gathered around the old kitchen table and dreamed of starting a business that would allow them to work together as a family. The business would be guided by the qualities of wisdom, wit, and kindness, rooted in the community that had nurtured them all their lives, and dedicated to producing goodness. After a world-wide search, they found their brewmaster, Michael, who shared their quest for excellence and elegance and also had deep roots in Santa Cruz. They each brought their own gifts to the table, and Discretion Brewing was born.

Elegant. Organic. Solar-powered. Brewed with love. Only organic ingredients are used at Discretion, a choice that's good for the earth and its people as well as the beer. We are the first Santa Cruz brewery to invest in solar power, harnessing the power of the sun to brew our beer. Water is precious, and we treat it that way. We are constantly seeking ways to lessen water usage. We divert 100% of our spent grain to local farms where very lucky pigs feast on the goodness left over after a brew day, sparing the landfill over 225,000 pound of grain a year. Grandsons like to nibble on it, too!


One way to express love is through kindness. Discretion Brewing is committed to being kind to our community. That’s why the word is in our logo, along with wisdom and wit. These are the qualities we hope will define our interactions with each other and with you as we make and share the goodness that is our beer.

On Love Mondays, we recognize and encourage local groups, like O'Neill Sea Odyssey, doing extraordinary things. We donate $1 for every draft beer sold that day to support the work they do in our community, along with the opportunity to educate our community about the good work they do, so we can all celebrate it together. Every one of our customers who buys a glass of beer throughout the day is a participant in the fundraising.


Please join O'Neill Sea Odyssey at Discretion Brewing on Monday, October 9, 2017 (Columbus Day), from 11:30am-9pm, when $1 of every Love Mondays draft beer sale will benefit our 100,000th Student Campaign. Mmmm beer!

Thank you, Discretion! We loved having the opportunity to celebrate our work.

Sherwood School Breaks 95,000
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Today, O'Neill Sea Odyssey hit another mini-milestone en route to serving 100,000 students. Ms. Bailey's 26-fourth graders from Sherwood School helped OSO surpass the mark to reach an astounding 95,008 students served to-date. Conditions were ideal for the nearly entire group of first-time ocean-goers participating from the Salinas City Elementary School District. The three learning groups, named after local marine mammals, observed all but one of their group species while sailing on Monterey Bay.

Captain Tim O'Neill and instructors Colin, Joey, and Adam were pleased to share the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program with such an enthusiastic class. We're grateful for their participation in the science and mathematics curriculum and hope the new knowledge and experience will inspire this next generation of Ocean Stewards to take action for their ocean backyard. (Photos courtesy of Tobin Zunes-Wolfe.)

Do you remember your first experience on the water? These students may very well remember this for the rest of their lives. It's also an experience many of their peers may never get. Thanks to your support, OSO and YOU make it possible.

Video of the Week

On Monday, during the quiet, still morning, bottlenose dolphins in Monterey Bay surfaced alongside the Team O'Neill catamaran as a group of 26-fifth graders from Olson Elementary School were participating in the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program. Just a short while before, the students had begun their rotation through the three learning stations while observing the Bays diverse marine life such as schooling anchovies, California sea lions, sea otters, and giant kelp, as well as a multitude of seabird species. This pod was an added bonus and indeed a special treat for our Marina, CA students.

Adam SteckleyMonterey Bay
Woodstock's Pizza FUN-d-raiser!

"From the beginning, Woodstock’s has put the fun in fundraising!  We are committed to supporting the community we’re a part of. Through the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for local community and campus nonprofit groups."

Giving back is the backbone of our business.
— Woodstock's Pizza

Wednesday, September 27

5:00 - 9:00pm

Woodstock's Pizza

710 Front Street, Santa Cruz / (831) 427-4444