O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO) was founded in 1996 by wetsuit innovator and surfer Jack O’Neill. A living classroom was created on board a 65-foot catamaran sailing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where 4th – 6th grade students from schools throughout Central California receive hands-on lessons about the marine habitat and the importance of the relationship between the living sea and the environment. The program is conducted on board the catamaran with follow-up lessons at the shore-side Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center at the Santa Cruz Harbor. It is free of charge, but students earn their way into the program by designing and performing a project to benefit their community.
The curriculum is taught in a stimulating and intimate learning environment, which provides a learning experience that lasts a lifetime. The program’s curriculum is designed to support the educational goals of the schools that participate, and each of the subjects taught align with both California state and federal education standards. The three subjects taught are marine science, marine and watershed ecology, and navigation/mathematics.
OSO has served 100,000 students since its inception. In 2004 the program received the prestigious California Governor’s award in Economic and Environmental Leadership, in 2005 it received US Senator Barbara Boxer’s Conservation Champion award, and in 2013 OSO received the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Community Impact Award.
Most of OSO’s work involves the core program, which is the one-day field trip supplemented by standards-based marine science curriculum for participating classes use before and after the field trip. In addition, the Adam Webster Memorial Fund, founded by Tom & Judy Webster when their son Adam passed away in 1999, provides the program for cognitively and physically challenged individuals. In August 2009, OSO’s Adam Webster Memorial Fund received the Community Spinners award from the Special Parents Information Network for its work with special needs youth.
Other special programs that O’Neill Sea Odyssey has conducted include (1) the week-long San Jose Community Oceanography program which focused on watershed to the sea education for low-income youth, (2) Ocean Scholars, which provides ocean science mentorships for youth served by Familia Center serving low-income Latino families in Santa Cruz County, and (3) Project Discovery that provided an overnight program for Oakland youth at O’Neill Sea Odyssey and Henry Cowell State Park.
A 2013 study by San Jose State Master’s candidate Lauren Hanneman, in addition to annual program evaluations done by Applied Survey Research, demonstrate the positive, measurable impact of O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s program on disadvantaged youth in the areas of educational achievement and environmental stewardship.
For more details about the program curriculum, go to the Learning Center