The OA SEaTIDe is our Ocean Academy Center for Social Enterprise, Technology, Innovation, Development and Education. Our high-school students have created amazing projects and initiatives this school year, and taken leaps and bounds in learning. And they have been winning national and international awards!
Students won first place in North America and the Caribbean for their business plan entry to the School Enterprise Challenge. 1250 schools from 83 countries participated. Ocean Academy's business idea is called Fish with Purpose. Students plan to rent rods to visitors and share their fishing knowledge about the island's best spots. Profits support student school fees,pocket money and the school scholarship fund. Other social enterprises at Ocean Academy are Kayak, Bike and Dinner with Purpose, as well as our culinary herb sales.
To celebrate Women's Month, Ocean Academy organized a Technology for Women and Girls workshop event. Participants learned about Coding, Graphic Design software, 3-D Sketch Up Architectual Design and even ROV underwater robotics. A group of students is now experimenting with building their own ROV, with the guidance of three girls in the competitive Atlantis ROV Team from Whidbey Island, USA who are mentoring Ocean Academy's group.
Last week, professors and students from Georgia State University returned to Ocean Academy with their drones and ArcGIS software technology,and our students contributed to the ongoing marine debris mapping project.
Students are really excited about mobile apps. Earlier this year, they won "Most Innovation and Creative Project" in a national S.T.E.M. science fair, for creating a prototype of a mobile app that would track mangrove restoration planting projects. Last month, a team of students ages 13-17 won the Belize High School Innovation Challenge with their mobile app called "Hire Belize". The competition challenged students to come up with solutions to high youth unemployment. Hire Belize is moving from protoype to reality now, and contains youth profile pages with their skills or products for sale, so that potential employers or buyers can easily find and hire young people. Testimonials and a star-rating system will provide valuable feedback on each youth's job or product performance.
Development and Education
For Belize Reef Week, students who wrote winning essays on the theme "Belief in the Reef" won a trip to snorkel the Caye Caulker Reef.
Students learned a hands-on lesson, literally, about citizenship, by joining hands in solidarity with tour guides, tourists, community members and Village Council members as a human message about our desire to protect the Belizean Reef from potential contamination. The event was organized by Oceana in centres nationwide and called "Hands Across the Sand".
What next? Scholarship Awards Ceremony!
Graduation is on June 12th and the Scholarship Awards Ceremony is on June 13th. If you would like to contribute to the Ocean Academy Scholarship Fund, now is the perfect time! We are so proud of our students, and now, with your help we hope to help them finish off a great year with scholarships and financial assistance.
Thank you for supporting Girls in STEM Education at Ocean Academy!
STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Ocean Academy's girls all learned how to Code in computer classes this year using the free website curriculum, Hour of Code. Six girls signed up for an elective class in graphic design.
Ocean Academy is hosting a workshop in March as part of Belize's Women's Month that will expand our coding and graphic design classes to include primary-school girls and community women, and host a skype call and video conference for Ocean Academy girls interested in learning how to build and use underwater robots (ROVs).
Marine Ecology Course
Ecology Project International hosted 13 Ocean Academy students, 3 teacher chaperones, and 6 Belize Scouts for an amazing four-day marine biology course on Calabash Caye in Belize's Turneffe Atoll. Students observed dolphin behaviours, dissected lionfish, studied the formation of atolls and coral reefs, conducted mini-research projects using the scientific method, learned about careers in the Coast Guard and in Marine Biology, and participated in leadership and teamwork activitites. Students earned a Bio-Scholar Certificate at the end of the course.
Ocean Academy students each created a Personal Education Plan this year and are visiting professionals and businesses. Thus far they have interviewed a doctor, civil engineer, dog groomer, TV anchorwoman, restauranteer, marine biologist, tour guide and a pastry chef.
Mark December 2nd on your calendar
December 2nd is a great fundraising opportunity to match your donations dollar per dollar right here on this GlobalGiving page. Ocean Academy was selected to participate in a Microsoft YouthSpark $350,000 Matching Funds Campaign because of our work with youth, entrepreneurship and technology education. For example, Ocean Academy students are learning Hour of Code and Adobe video editing in their computer classes, and are also creating their own mobile apps.
This is how the matching funds campaign works:
Caye Caulker Ocean Academy High School's Aquatic Tourism Program has won the prestigious Beyond Sports 2014 Award in the category Sport for Education (sponsored by UNICEF). The Beyond Sport Awards celebrate and reward the best projects from around the world that use sport to bring about positive social change. Ocean Academy's project was selected from 350 entries spanning 70 countries. School founders Joni Miller and Heidi Curry were invited to Johannesburg, South Africa October 28-30 for the Awards ceremony and they represented Belize on an international panel addressing the theme of how sports can inspire youth to become leaders in their communities.
Shortly after the Beyond Sport recognition, Ocean Academy students were again honored with a prestigious award, this time from the Belize Department of Youth Services. Students accepted a National Youth Award that recognizes the Environmental aspect of the Aquatic Tourism Program, as well as the school's other small business venture: culinary herb sales by the Compost & Gardening Club.
Aquatic Tourism Programme
Ocean Academy was founded in 2008 as Caye Caulker’s first high school. In addition to traditional high-school subjects, all students select an elective and P.E. (physical education) class each semester. Students who select Aquatic Tourism are mentored by skilled tour guides and earn valuable certifications in kayaking, scuba diving, fly fishing or windsurfing, all at no cost thanks for strong partnerships with local tour operators. Workshops in entrepreneurship, marine biology, first aid, tour guiding, communication and leadership skills complement the P.E. program.
Sandie Betz-Eisenberg says that “as soon as my son Spenser saw the video of the Aquatic Tourism classes he exclaimed, ‘That’s where I want to go to school!’ His marine biology and especially fly fishing classes have given him the opportunity to pursue his passion for the sea and to get credit for it at the same time. Ocean Academy has been instrumental in connecting Spenser with people who can help him to follow and live his dreams. I believe that we couldn't ask for more than that, as that is what every parent wishes for their children”.
Ocean Academy's "With Purpose Tours" adds an entrepreneurial element to the Aquatic Tourism Program. Trained students accompany visitors by kayak, bike or fishing rod around Caye Caulker and interpret the marine and terrestrial ecosystems and sites from the perspective of the island youth. Visitors fill out evaluation forms after each trip that assist administrators in designing follow-up training sessions for student leaders, and trip donations are credited to the student's school fees, family income, and school scholarship fund. The Aquatic Tourism Program highlights the positive impact that location-based learning can have on a student’s future employment possibilities and the likelihood to remain in school once he/she is engaged in real-world interactions and learning.
Parent Johnny Cantun Sr. recalls that "since Johnny Jr. was a little boy he has loved fishing. That’s one of the reasons I put him here at this high school. Ocean Academy has classes in fly fishing, scuba, kayak, marine biology. It’s what the island needs. Johnny loves fishing but now he also wants to be an architect and he enjoys learning how to make mobile apps in computer class. Ocean Academy is the best school for me to send my son so that he learns skills that will benefit himself, his future, and also the island".
The Beyond Sport Award and National Youth Award are among several success stories for Ocean Academy students. Since 2009, 36 students have certified as PADI Open Water scuba divers, 19 are advanced divers, and two alumni are Dive Masters. Six students and one administrator enrolled in a month-long night class for tour guides and community members, in 2012, to learn how to set transects and conduct surveys of invertebrates, juvenile fish, corals, commercial fish and marine mammals. They graduated as Community Reef Technicians. The Department of Youth Services awarded Ocean Academy student Kyle Requena the 2013 National Youth in Tourism Award. After graduation Kyle worked alongside his mentor to compete in an international fly-fishing tournament and he is now an assistant fly-fishing instructor with Ocean Academy.
“Ocean Academy has created many opportunities for students to get involved in the tourism industry here on Caye Caulker, from conducting beach cleanups to sharing local knowledge of island ecosystems with visitors,” says Joni Miller, school Founder and Projects Director. “These mentorships and entrepreneurial opportunities not only attract non-traditional students to enroll in high school, but also help our students improve their overall set of professional skills that are transferable to any career or educational path they may follow”.
Aquatic Sport opportunities for Ocean Academy students are possible thanks to partnerships with Caye Caulker tour operators who freely volunteer their time, expertise and resources to mentor local youth. Ocean Academy extends a heart-felt thank you to Toucan Canoe and Kayaks (kayaking), Belize Diving Services (scuba diving), Anglers Abroad (fly-fishing), Dane Dingerson (windsurfing), and the Forest and Marine Reserves Association of Caye Caulker (reef and mangrove ecology). Beyond Sport and UNICEF join a growing list of international sponsors of Ocean Academy’s Aquatic Tourism program: the Embassy of the United States, Belmopan (CARSI grant for alternative livelihoods and training for youth), Kenco Outdoor Equipment Store in New York State and Jackson Kayak in Tennessee.
Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport concluded the Summit and Awards with the message that “all our winners represent the very best in leadership both in society and their own communities. Amongst all the remarkable work, the winners have demonstrated innovation and impact at an exceptional level and are an inspiration to all; we hope winning today further strengthens the incredible work they have already achieved”.
School Supply Drive: The Belize Association of Houston is hosting a big school supply drive. They have teamed up with Belize Freight to ship much-needed supplies free of charge to Ocean Academy. There is a wishlist posted that includes desktop computers, printers, file cabinets, display cases, art supplies etc. Items must be received before July 31st to make the August barge departure. "Contact Us" on the school website for more information (and see attached poster and website link).
Annual Science Fair draws crowds: Children from the primary school were curious and impressed as Ocean Academy students demonstrated concepts such as flubber, fireworks in a bottle, keeping cool and of course, the ever-popular volcano eruptions.
Sports Day: Community members and tourists lined the beach to watch Ocean Academy students compete in sandcastle building, water runs to fill bottles with sponges, sack races, tug-o-war, slowest bike races and water balloon toss. In addition to being great fun, student teams showed sportsmanship and team spirit.
Graduation Ceremony and Scholarship Awards are June 13-14th - Are you planning a trip to Caye Caulker? Next weekend is the ideal time! Our next report will feature photos of this year's proud graduating class of 2014. Your donations and support were very important in helping many of these students reach the graduation stage. Thank you for continuing to care about the education of Caye Caulker youth. Your donations, and scholarship pledges, are truly appreciated.
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