Skip to main content

Coastkeeper Inspires the Next Generation of Water Stewards Through Local Habitat Exploration

Orange County students learn innovative ways to protect water quality 

ORANGE COUNTY – March 9, 2016— On March 16, Coastkeeper’s W.H.A.L.E.S education program will inspire students to interact with nature and understand its importance. WHALES will bring students from Costa Mesa High School to Heisler Park in Laguna Beach to spend the day learning about Marine Protected Areas and biodiversity in tide pools along Orange County’s coastline.

“These trips offer students a learning experience that they can’t get in the classroom and leaves a long lasting impact,” says Dyana Peña, Coastkeeper’s education director. “Our goal is to challenge students to think, write, and speak critically about local coastal protection issues and foster in them environmental stewardship and community involvement.”

Costa Mesa High School’s Marine Science students will begin their field trip at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Canyon. Students will have the unique opportunity to see current patients at the center and learn how the PMMC rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine animals. Students will build their knowledge of ocean stewardship through a beach cleanup and a tide pool scavenger hunt in one of Laguna’s Marine Protected Areas. From shore crabs to sea anemones, student will observe marine creatures in their natural environment to understand their importance in marine habitats.

A recent report on WHALES highlighted the successes of the program, showing that across all grade levels, WHALES students score an average of 85 percent on worksheets that assess their understanding of watershed science and human impacts on local waters and habitats.

WHALES, which stands for Watershed Heroes: Actions Linking Education to Stewardship, offers Orange County junior high and high school students field-based science curriculum at no additional charge to schools. Since 2012, 2,000 students per year participated in the field excursions and in-class lessons presented by WHALES.

WHALES serves schools throughout Orange County and has recently expanded into South Orange County. In addition to typical science classes, Coastkeeper modifies the program for English Language Development classes and students with developmental disabilities.

For more information on the WHALES Program, please contact education director, Dyana Peña at


ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit or call 714-850-1965.