State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited the Chula Vista Nature Center in south San Diego Bay on April 3, 2012. Torlakson, California's highest elected education official, wanted to tour a facility where young students experience science and nature first-hand and up close.
While there, Torlakson got a close look at a Red Tail Hawk, a Golden Eagle and a Sonoran Desert Tortoise, while also learning about the nature center's educational programs.
"Photos are good, but seeing nature first-hand is a much more memorable experience that could spark in students a life-long interest in science," Torlakson said.
Dr. Brian Joseph, executive director of the Chula Vista Nature Center, conducted the tour of the 3.3-acre center that is part of the Sweetwater Marsh.
The nature center provides visitors – about 70,000 per year – an opportunity to see burrowing owls, shorebirds and birds of prey in outdoor aviaries, sharks and bat rays swimming in a pool, and sweeping views of the marsh.
The aviary dwellers are all birds that have been injured and cannot be released into their native habitats. The nature center's animal care training supervisors sometimes take the birds out of the aviaries to allow visitors to see them from inches away.
Torlakson said he was impressed with the nature center's facilities and the variety of science programs offered there for students. He said he greatly supports educational programs, including the ones at the nature center, that demonstrate the importance of coastal habitats and the challenges of managing natural resources in an urban landscape.
Also attending the tour were representatives from the Port of San Diego, the Birch Aquarium, Hubbs Sea World Research Institute, the Center for Bay and Coastal Dynamics and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the tour organizer.
At a meeting following the tour, representatives from the Chula Vista Nature Center, the Birch Aquarium and the Center for Bay and Coastal Dynamics agreed to collaborate on a proposal to integrate local research into project-based education programs.
The Center for Bay and Coastal Dynamics is a partnership between the Port of San Diego, San Diego State University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD and HubbsSea World Research Institute. It was formed as a collaboration to develop an integrated approach to understanding San Diego Bay ecosystems.
Torlakson thanked the Port of San Diego for its support of the Chula Vista Nature Center.
Through its environmental education program, the Port of San Diego funds transportation for field trips to the nature center for its partnership schools in the port's member cities.
An environmental steward of San Diego Bay, the port has also contributed $125,000 to support a variety of educational and endangered species programs at the center.
About the Port:
The Port of San Diego is the fourth-largest of 11 deep water ports in California and the top port in the state for the movement of break-bulk cargo. The Port was created by the state legislature in 1962. Since then, it has invested in public improvements in its five member cities – Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Diego.
The Port District oversees two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, 17 public parks, the Harbor Police Department, and the leases of more than 600 tenant and sub tenant businesses around San Diego Bay.