"What a vision Jack O'Neill had!"
We've asked Theresa Coyle, one of O'Neill Sea Odyssey's long-time supporters, to share her thoughts about her unique connection to, and history with, the OSO program. Here's what she had to say....
In 1996, after 26 years of teaching at the elementary level, I decided to take a half time position for a year. It was that decision that led me to O'Neill Sea Odyssey. Jack O'Neill was launching his new idea of offering an educational program aboard the Team O'Neill catamaran to teach about the importance of taking care of the ocean, and he was looking for an education coordinator to help him establish it.
Fortunately for me, I was chosen for the job and ended up spending the next six years teaching part-time and working part-time with Jack to create what would become an amazing gift to educators and their students - and to the community, as well.
The program started out as a 3 hour, 3 station experience that was offered to K-12 teachers in exchange for a community service project. It involved lessons on Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, and Navigation with instruction in each of the 3 areas on the boat with follow up instruction in the on-shore classroom. After the first year, we determined that it was better suited to the 4th - 6th grade levels (as it addressed several state standards in science and math) and began to fine tune it with that in mind.
One of the most exciting components of the program was the community service project requirement. We asked teachers to propose a community service project as their "payment" for the trip (which allowed us to participate - as our classroom budgets would not have) and as a result many benefited. The projects included establishing recycling programs at school, beach clean-ups, school and community clean-ups, storm drain stenciling, designing and posting artwork and informational posters around the community and more. A personal favorite was a class that wrote poetry about their experience with the program, created illustrated poetry books, sold them as a fundraiser and then donated the money back to the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program which added to the funds for future classes to be able to take part. A nice full-circle initiative.
Among the many other benefits that the program has provided, is the ripple effect that has been felt throughout the communities. Not only have the participating students taken home important lessons about the ocean and the environment, but their parents and chaperones have too. Along with the nearly 100,000 students served, there are many, many more lives that have been touched by the program. What a vision Jack O'Neill had!
My husband, Michael, and I continue to support the program because we believe in it! Not only does it address environmental concerns in an engaging, hands on way, it also targets a young population that has the potential to take these lessons to heart at an early age and spread the word to others. It's important to us to be a part of something that teaches invaluable lessons now and will have an impact on future generations as well.
What does the ocean mean to you?
There is something about the ocean that has always drawn me in. As a young girl, I spent many vacations with my family camping and clamming at Pismo Beach and fishing at Morro Bay, or out in the open ocean, and I just couldn't get enough. I loved being near the water, in the water, near the wildlife, and just loved the smell of "the coast" as we called it. In later years, the beaches near Santa Cruz were a frequent destination with friends and family. When I grew up and moved up to the mountains to start my teaching career, I missed the ocean and always looked for reasons to come back. When a teaching opportunity came up that would bring me back to the coast, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Not only was I able to enjoy the ocean again, I could also share it with my students through the many field trips, lessons, and activities that were ocean related. Now that I'm retired, I enjoy walks near the ocean almost daily, take every opportunity to be out on the water, and continue to appreciate what a treasure the ocean is.
Thank you, Theresa and Michael! We are grateful for your continued support. OSO couldn’t do it without you.
Please join the Coyle's and others who have contributed in support of our 100,000th student milestone.