Watsonville Wetlands Watch’s mission “To protect, restore and appreciate the wetlands of Pajaro Valley” can only be accomplished by fostering future generations of engaged, informed citizens who identify the wetlands as part of their home and as central to their community. Currently, many Watsonville youth are not becoming informed, nor do they feel valued or that they have a place in the community. A recent survey commissioned by the City of Watsonville (Search Institute, 2005) reports only 17% of the local youth feel the community supports them, only 29% believe they are in a caring school environment and 12% think they have a positive role model.
Pajaro Valley High School teachers report that approximately 50% of their 9th and 10th grade students fail their classes because they are not handing in assignments and are not engaged in school. Unfortunately this data is reinforced by the City of Watsonville’s survey reporting that only 51% of the students they polled said they were actively engaged in school and want to do well.
Students need to enter learning through another door. Hands-on education provides that door, and small group activities provide the means to recognize and value each individual. Experiential environmental learning is engaging, immediate and stimulating. It calls for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning which can segue into deeper explorations involving reading, writing, drawing, measuring, calculating, charting or mapping.