Meet Elevations Foundation Grantee Ocean First Institute

Here in Colorado, we are a long way from the ocean. But our rivers flow to both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and the choices we make here can have a global impact. Boulder-based Ocean First Institute is dedicated to ocean conservation through research and education. With a grant from Elevations Foundation, they are expanding their K-12 in-school environmental education programming in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley School Districts.

Ocean First Institute was founded in 2014 and is led by Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza, one of the top shark experts in the world. The organization believes that young people are our best hope for solving today’s environmental challenges, and that to do so, we must break down the disconnection between people and nature. Ocean First Institute approaches this challenge through an innovative mix of youth education programs and ocean-based environmental research.

Ocean First Institute has been very active in Colorado, reaching over 4,600 students with ocean-themed environmental education programs that have run in 16 elementary, 4 middle and 5 high schools in Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley School Districts. They work collaboratively with teachers and students to develop a culture of ocean literacy and stewardship. Their lessons involve interactive inquiry-based experiments that motivate and support students for success in their education and careers in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM).

In the classroom, their programs come to life in many ways, all designed to inspire students to take decisive action within their communities. Here are just a few examples:

  • After a school visit from an Ocean First Institute scientist, students at Central Elementary in Longmont were inspired to create their own 5-foot leatherback sea turtle from trash! With this art, these ocean guardians are teaching others about the importance of our actions on the environment.
  • Hygiene Elementary School students created 5 large mosaic art panels built with trash pieces to raise awareness about the damaging effects of ocean trash. Students took the art pieces to other schools, retirement homes, local businesses and several community events, including St. Vrain’s districtwide art show, to share the message and spark others to act.
  • Students at the St. Vrain Innovation Center designed and created scientific equipment to measure sharks underwater with lasers in a non-invasive way. The design was solid and has been used by Dr. Mikki in research off Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

With support from Elevations Foundation, Ocean First Institute will be able to reach over 500 K-12 students locally. We are proud to support the work of Ocean First Institute, and invite you to learn more about them.

Please consider supporting Elevations Foundation as we continue to provide community grants to impactful nonprofits like Ocean First Institute.

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