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Sand Crabs and Outdoor Labs

A STEM Learning Spotlight

As I walk down the wooden steps to ‘Lil’ Beach, the southernmost end of Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands, I hear shouts of joy amid breaking ocean waves all around me: “It’s a boy!” “It’s a girl!” “This one’s pregnant!!” “Look at all those orange gooey babies!”

On a gorgeous sunny day in mid-October (also known as ‘summer’ in the Headlands), students from Eldridge Elementary in Hayward participated in the LiMPETS program (Long-Term Monitoring Program and Experimental Training for Students), a partnership between Point Bonita YMCA and the Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary. LiMPETS is a community (or, often called ‘citizen’) science program that allows students to take real data, used by NOAA scientists and the National Marine Sanctuary system, on the Pacific Mole Crab (more commonly known as a sand crab).

Learning for the Land

By monitoring the sand crab populations in marine protected areas, students are helping to establish a baseline from which we can better address current and future impacts such as oil spills and climate change. Monitoring the coastal ecosystems of California’s national marine sanctuaries also increases awareness and stewardship of these important areas. Students are seeing science as fun- often shattering their preconceived notions that science is ‘boring’ and takes place inside a lab. For many of our students, this is also the first time they’ve ever been to a beach or gone barefoot in the sand, which just makes the experience that much more exciting.

Meaningful Y Work

6th graders completely enthralled by not-at-all-cuddly-looking invertebrates (some filled with hundreds of tiny orange egg blobs) is not something you see every day, nor something you might have ever guessed the Y would have anything to do with. That is just one of the many reasons I love this organization.

Through programs such as these, we can hit on all three aspects of strengthening our communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility; by providing an unforgettable outdoor adventure.