Starting in September, Isla Mar will begin offering ocean-themed classes for the youth of our community. Learn more in this post and meet our new Director of Youth Education!
The classes will be held as six-week programs, each designed to focus on a specific ocean theme. There will be two versions of the classes - one for kids aged 7-9 years old, and the other for kids 10-12 years old. The classes will be held in-person at Isla Mar's jungle oasis and will occur after school hours. At the moment, the classes will be taught in English, however the program will soon become bilingual as we continue to grow and expand.
There will be a total of four 6-week programs offered this school year - two in the Fall 2023 and two in the Spring 2024. We also plan to offer a summer camp!
Our new director of this program, Leslie Wade, will be designing these courses to help bring Isla Mar's mission "to train the next generation of scientists" to fruition. Leslie has 13 years of experience educating youth and adults in creative ways - using our natural world as a classroom. She has a B.Sc. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science (focus on Conservation Biology) from Texas A&M University, and a M.Sc. in Marine Science, Biological Oceanography, University of South Florida, College of Marine Science.
Over the last seven years, Leslie has designed and led small-scale versions of these classes for the kids of the Rincon community, which has grown over the years due to the interest and desire for this type of learning. We reached out to Leslie, one of our Tres Palmas Citizen Scientists and frequent volunteer at Isla Mar outreach events, to ask for her to join our team and create this new program.
What inspires your drive to educate?
I am consistently motivated by this quote... "In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum. It is deeply fulfilling to watch a person or child's passion for protecting our natural world grow alongside their knowledge and understanding of it.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of educating our youth?
Teaching children and young adults about our magnificent planet is part of my purpose in life. Being able to play a small role in shaping how our future generations care about and protect the Earth gives me hope and inspires me to be a better human.
Describe your vision for Isla Mar's youth program
There is so much potential for this program! Besides offering hands-on, creativity-based ocean classes for youth of different ages, I envision a marine science summer camp focused on exploring Puerto Rico's different coastal ecosystems, the implementation of a Teacher Training program to give public or private school teachers the tools to share Ocean Education in their classrooms, and more Citizen Scientist programs like the existing Isla Mar program, with emphasis on children and families involvement.
What has been one of your favorite moments with Isla Mar?
The incredible opportunity to be part of the first cohort of Isla Mar's Citizen Scientists and work alongside other dedicated community members who want to protect the ocean while supporting current research and conservation efforts.
Stay tuned to hear about this first round of courses and how to sign up for the program!