Weekly roundup: Newport Back Bay offers hands-on learning, OC teachers chosen for NASA program, and more

A group of students from Costa Mesa High School students recently spent the day at the Upper Newport BayEcological Reserve to learn about nature and the environment first hand.

The Orange County Register’s article this week highlighted how the students sifted through the mud looking for tiny organisms known as plankton. The students were convinced plankton would be found because they already had tested the water’s salinity and alkaline levels and its temperature, according to the Register.

Beyond plankton, the students also identified little shrimp known as amphipods, cone snails, clams and mussels. They also found Asian date mussels, an invasive species which they later fed to the octopus in the Back Bay Science Center’s tank.

The Back Bay reserve hosts students of all ages throughout the year, providing the perfect habitat for them to study. The area, which is home to salt marsh, mudflat and marine habitats, has much to discover. Large mudflats above high tide are a favorite for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Sheltered water provides foraging, spawning and nursery habitat for marine fish.

The Costa Mesa High students’ visit was part of their Advanced Placement environmental science class taught by teacher Cristen Rasmussen. Topics have focused on biodiversity of plants and animals living within a large watershed near the coast.

After they complete their research, the students will develop findings and present them to a group of environmental professionals.

“We’d love for them to become engaged citizens of the community so that hopefully they value the local environment,” Dyana Pena, an education director for Orange County Coastkeeper, told the Register. “We want them to take away knowledge and empowerment, so they can protect the planet and the watershed.”

The program was conducted in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which operates the science center, as well as OC Coastkeeper educators, the Institute for Conservation Research and Education (ICRE) and Project Grow.

Here are some other news stories and features from throughout the region for the week ending April 5.

  • Anaheim High School Dance Director Meg Elder will retire at the end of the school year after 31 years. Her proudest accomplishment, she said, has been helping her students grow an appreciation for the arts.
  • Two highly admired teachers at Laguna Beach High School received Crystal Apple awards after being nominated by grateful students whose lives were touched by their work.
  • After volunteering at a Laguna Beach homeless shelter, a group of students from Thurston Middle School set out on a mission to collect coats for the homeless.
  • Middle and high school students throughout the Tustin area submitted art works in a variety of visual media, including oil, watercolor, ceramics, photography and graphics for an upcoming art exhibit at the Tustin Library’s Clifton Miller Community Center.
  • Newport Harbor High School juniors teamed up to raise funds for cancer research through a seven-week competition in which high school students “foster professional skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management” for a nonprofit.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates or following us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.