Making Waves to Save Our Oceans
By Kathy DeSantis
Across the side of a building, a thousand miles from the nearest coast, a 40-ton humpback
whale breaches toward the heavens. While on a field trip, the children stare in awe — this may be the first and only life-size whale or ocean animal they will ever see. In an Oregon classroom, a group of students creates scientifically accurate drawings of a pod of bottlenose dolphins. A group of second and third graders help Wyland create an underwater mural at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
This is just a snapshot of a new educational program offered to our nation’s schools. The Wyland Ocean Challenge. How has this come about? Through Wyland and a small team of dedicated people. Why is he, a famous and established marine life artist, going through such great lengths to educate children about the oceans?
According to his mom, Darlene, Wyland is motivated to teach kids because they are the ones most interested in clean oceans in the long run. She said he gets the kids excited to learn about the ocean.
“Wyland is like a big kid himself,” she said in a recent interview with Awareness Magazine. “The kids really enjoy painting with him and being an artist too.”
This past fall Wyland launched a one-of-a-kind nationwide art contest that incorporates the principles of his new program: “Clean Water for the 21st Cen-tury . . . and Beyond” to demonstrate through hands-on science experiments, art activities and live events how students, grades K-6, can use science and art in the conservation of water on our planet. After using the activities in their classes, more than 12,000 students in four states were invited to their local aquarium or science museum to visit the Underwater Village, a traveling, interactive community of three “suburbs”: Art Town, Science Station and Conservation Corner.
The underwater traveling educational program provides youngsters with lessons in art, science and conservation with self-_expression and learning an appreciation for the natural world and science. Wyland doesn’t do anything this important in a small way. When he embarked on his first life-size Whaling Wall mural project more than 20 years ago, skeptics asked how a picture of whales could possibly save these giant ocean mammals.
Wyland’s response? “It may be the only thing that can.”
More than one billion people around the world now see Wy-land’s marine life public art projects every year. In 1998, the United Nations and U.N. Secretary General, Kofi A. Annan, honored him as the official artist for the International Year of the Ocean.
More importantly, he is a living example of the power of one individual to make a difference in the world. His philosophy of determination, hopes, and care for the environment has helped empower both young and old to work toward a brighter future for our ocean planet. Wyland was presented last year with the John M. Olguin Marine Environment Award for his contributions toward ocean awareness and conservation.
Through the internet, the ocean curriculum is available to teachers and students around the country. Please visit their website www.wylandoceanchallenge.org The website also offers a Spanish version. Educational experts at the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, the Birch Aquar-ium at Scripps, and Wyland developed the curriculum.
This ambitious program will challenge the students of America, grades K-12, to learn about the conservation of oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and wetlands, and take action to help preserve clean water in this new century.
Kids seem to be perfect targets for the program, according to Virginia Lenac, marketing coordinator for the Wyland Foundation in Laguna Beach. She was present at one of the initial programs with Wyland and saw how the students took on the ocean challenge for themselves. “The kids actually helped Wyland paint a mural and came up with all kinds of creative fish — one fish even had a Mohawk. The kids got to use their imaginations and interact with each other and a famous artist while learning lessons about ocean conservation.” She believes the Ocean Challenge program is a resounding success and is proud of her role, as well as the entire mission of the Foundation.
“The art is great, but Wyland’s main interest is educating kids about the importance of clean oceans. His artwork has to support the Foundation’s work of getting the “Ocean Challenge” to the children. Reception of the program by the schools has been tremendous,” Virginia said. Since the program was launched a few months ago, Wyland has taught kids at the Discovery Center, Long Beach Aquarium, Cabrillo Museum, and will also go to San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Hawaii.
Wyland joined scientist and explorer, Dr. Robert Ballard, as a featured guest on the highly-acclaimed JASON Project, an interactive classroom educational program that broadcasts the expeditions of Dr. Ballard and the Argo crew live to one million students around the world. The Jason XII program, entitled “Hawai’i — A Living Laboratory,” focuses on volcanoes, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the rich cultural history of Hawaii. Wyland, who appeared on the program from Hawaii on Feb. 5-6 and 8-9, will introduce techniques for students to help them reflect upon and draw what they have learned.
Unlike many traditional learning programs, the Wyland Ocean Challenge fosters a genuine appreciation for the natural sciences and the natural world through art and self-_expression. Art itself becomes an exploratory tool for the student to delve into the sciences. The Wyland Ocean Challenge ignites the excitement and creative energy that opens the doors to science — and reminds youngsters that the natural world is filled with countless, exciting roads waiting to be explored.
The Clean Water program activities, live tour and art contest were designed to spark the interest of students. The goal behind the program is very serious” said Wyland. “Scientists are predicting devastating losses in marine life and fresh water ecosystems by 2050. It is going to be up to the students to learn about our plan-et’s marine world and find out what they can do to protect it.”
At the time of this interview Wyland was in Guam painting his 91st (already!?) mural. He plans to paint nine more murals and then concentrate his work on sculpture. After the mural is painted he will head to Tijuana, Mexico to bring the Wyland Ocean Challenge and traveling Underwater Village to the children.
“He teaches awareness about the ocean,” one teacher said. “His presence has an impact and kids are getting the message: Save the oceans.”
A healthy ocean for the next generation
Raising money to protect our coasts
You’ve seen them around the state of California. Maybe you even own one. If you do, you’ll be happy to know that the “Whale Tail” license plate created by Wyland for the California Coastal Commission continues to be a popular and effective fund-raiser for coastal and marine education programs in California.
For each plate sold, approximately $20 is deposited in the California Beach and Coastal Enhancement account, a program designed to maintain the pristine quality of our coastline. An equal amount is deposited in the Environmental License Plate Fund, which funds environmental programs in other state agencies.
In 1999, the Wyland license plate was among the highest-selling “specialty” plates available in California. Approximately 40,000 plates have been sold to date.
California state agencies that benefit from the
Environmental License Plate Fund
Yosemite National Institute Surfrider Foundation
North Coast Environmental Center Heal The Bay
California State Parks Foundation Earth Day Kid’s Clean Up
SeaCamp Monterey Bay Channel Islands Coastal Experience
Camp for At-Risk Youth KELP
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