Teacher Spotlight


Kimberly Kellam

"My students understand that our OSO program comes with the responsibility of giving back to our community."

We've asked Kimberly Kellam, one of O'Neill Sea Odyssey's teacher participants, to share her thoughts about her unique experience with the OSO program. Here's what she had to say...

Four years ago, as a first-year teacher in Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, my 6th grade science team was sent detailed information about the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program. For us, serving socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, we took one look at the pictures - Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, a sailing catamaran, small group sizes, hands-on learning - and thought we’d never have the opportunity for our students to attend. With one phone call, however, we learned that donor support provides the necessary funding and our financial worries subsided. That was the start of our journey with OSO and we've attended every year since.

The first year my classes attended OSO (and my first year teaching) we were fortunate to be featured in one of the lessons (Lesson 2) filmed to provide a "virtual" program for classrooms unable to attend on location. I will forever be grateful that I have a lasting memory of my first year teaching with such a wonderful group of students and a program that has forever impacted the students and myself.



My students understand that our OSO program comes with the responsibility of giving back to our community. After returning from our first Sea Odyssey trip, I had my students brainstorm potential service projects to benefit the community for what we learned during our adventures. One of my students came up with the brilliant idea of making reusable bags out of old t-shirts. After researching different designs, we decided on a style of t-shirt bag that needed to be cut, turned inside out, and sewn on the bottom. The idea was a success and my students loved making the bags but my sewing machine, not so much!

After learning about the devastating effects of plastic bags on our oceans, and the microscopic level to which plastic can photo-degrade, many students were committed to giving everyone they knew a t-shirt bag in order to lessen the amount of plastic bags used. We have now refined our design and reduced the amount of supplies we use to make them. This last year, we cut the bottom of the t-shirts into about 15 strips and tied them together to seal the bottom. Students reported making more of these types of bags at home because they did not need a sewing machine to complete the bag!

I continue to support and participate with O'Neill Sea Odyssey over the years because of the impact the program has on the students at my school. Every year I am blown away by the amount of students that say they’ve never been on a boat before; and being on the boat gives students a real life picture of our ocean and some of the wonders that live in it. The biggest impact that is left on them is potential career choices for the future. Too often in the classroom, we only read about scientists or study their findings, but OSO gives us the opportunity to meet scientists and be field scientists for a day. For many of them, this is the first time they consider pursuing higher education to have the opportunity to work like those they see at OSO. As their teacher, I can provide them other resources related to careers in marine biology because I first learned about their interests at O'Neill Sea Odyssey. 

What does the ocean mean to you?

To me, the ocean means power, beauty, and mystery. As a child, I have vivid memories of being tumbled in waves and being thrown under the water. Instead of being (too) scared, I was more curious, how could I make it through the waves without being tumbled? How did water have so much power to push me around? I loved exploring the kelp and little sand crabs that appeared on the shore, then looking out to the horizon, seeing whale spouts and dolphins I always wondered how the different sized species can interact and live in harmony with one another. Watching the sea life, waves, and sunsets on the ocean will be the most beautiful thing I will ever see in my life. Clearly, the more I interacted with the ocean, the more questions it left me wanting to answer. Questions that my students ask me today and while I might not be able to answer them all, we will explore them together, many aboard the Team O'Neill catamaran. The beauty behind the ocean is all the life that lies within.

Photo courtesy of Doug Jones.

Photo courtesy of Doug Jones.


Thank you, Kimberly, for sharing your experience and continuing to inspire your students to be stewards of the ocean. We are grateful for your support and happy to have your class as part of our virtual lesson series.