Live to Grow: Students Plan Marine Science Trip to Catalina Island

Yoli Cueponi , or “live to grow” in the language of Catalina Island’s original human inhabitants, the Pimungan people, is a sentiment dear to the minds and hearts of 9th grade students at Mount Madonna School (MMS). It is also the name the class has given to their upcoming marine science learning journey to the popular island located off the southern California coast.

“It reflects their desire to seek learning and personal growth outside a traditional classroom setting,” comments Lisa Catterall, MMS’ high school science teacher. Catterall will accompany the students on their five-day trip to Catalina, May 21-25.. “Our preparation process for the trip includes elements from MMS’ Values in World Thought Program,” says Catterall, “including the Learning Journey Rubric developed by Ward ‘SN’ Mailliard.”

In preparation for the work they will engage in on Catalina, students have spent months working on two projects, Death by Plastic: A Study of the Laysan Albatross ; and How the Runoff Runs: Nitrates and Phosphates in our Watershed. Their projects were entered into the QuikSCience Challenge, a competition run by Quiksilver, Inc. and the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (WIES). WIES is affiliated with the University of Southern California (USC), which maintains a marine science center on Catalina Island.

While they were not chosen as a competition finalist, the MMS students’ project portfolio did earn them the chance to participate in ongoing USC-sponsored research during their trip to Catalina. Under the guidance of two university scientists, students will spend a day assisting in a field study, first by kayaks, and then on a larger research vessel. In addition, students will be learning field study techniques from the shore, and helping with a beach cleanup with the Catalina Island Conservancy.

“I’m using this trip as a test to see whether I want to have a career in field and marine biology,” says ninth grader Rami Walker, as she works to prepare her field journal. “It’s also been a lesson in organization and time-management.”

Mount Madonna’s 9th grade science program, Diversity and History of Life on Earth , focuses heavily on evolution, structure and function, ecosystems, and animal diversity. The Catalina trip presents a rare opportunity for high school students to come in close contact with all the animal phyla studied in the classroom.

“There is no film, lab, textbook, or handout that can make the topic of ‘Life’ come to life as well as seeing California’s most intact marine ecosystem close-up,” comments Catterall.

Students will be camping during their entire four nights on the island, and are planning outdoor meals and logistics themselves. During this school year the students have engaged in fundraising to earn money for their trip; hosting a meal at a film screening, selling Yoli Cueponi t-shirts (available in the MMS school office), and, on Sunday, April 22, putting on a Salsa Party Fundraiser at the Palomar Ballroom in Santa Cruz. A portion of the proceeds from the t-shirt sales will be used to support a marine environmental conservation project students will undertake while on Catalina.










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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.

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