Environmental Education at the Oregon Coast

I start off my mornings by driving up the Oregon Coast to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. I’m surrounded by numerous dark green trees and mountains on one side and rocky cliffs that drop into flat sandy beaches on the other. It’s been about two months since I’ve moved to Newport for my internship and I have learned so much in a short amount of time. My role as an Education and Outreach Intern involves a variety of educational and visitor services duties that are all very engaging and interactive. One day is never the same!

Have you ever been to a tide pool before? At Yaquina Head, you can find beautiful tide pools at cobble beach that offer an abundance of marine diversity! My role at the tide pools is to inform visitors about the “rules of the pools” by using a more conversational method, before they head down to cobble beach. Lots of people come to Yaquina Head believing that they can’t touch the tidepool animals, but I let them know that they actually can by using a gentle touch with one or two fingers. 

While I’m not discussing the rules of the pools with visitors, I walk around the tide pools to ensure that people are demonstrating safe behavior and to chat with visitors about the marine animals we have here. I also use this time to explore and see if I can find any crabs or nudibranchs! Finding a sea lemon or a leopard dorid is my favorite form of treasure hunting, because they are few and far between compared to the green anemones, mussels, and sea urchins. 

Gumboot chiton (Melanitta perspicillata) the size of my hand
Sea Lemon nudibranch next to a purple urchin

Interpretation plays an important role here at Yaquina Head. This includes the many ways I can explain to visitors about the animals we see at the tide pools or how the cobbles came to be at cobble beach. I also work at the interpretive center’s (IC) desk or rove around the park, which allows me to engage in conversations with visitors and answer any questions they may have. 

It also is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and watch wildlife or find new plant species to add to my Seek collection! There are a few trails here at Yaquina Head, my personal favorites being Salal Hill and the trail towards Quarry Cove. I can see the whole town of Newport at the top of Salal Hill! I also enjoy hearing the chirps of song sparrows, the squeaks of the black oystercatchers, and the buzzes of fuzzy bumblebees.

Wildlife viewpoint in front of Quarry cove

The larger time of April was spent preparing for and engaging in our virtual K-12th environmental education programs! My role mainly focused on being the outdoor ranger at the tide pools for our Tide Pool School (kindergarten-3rd) and Sea-Crets (3rd-5th) programs. With my microphone and cell phone equipment in hand, I would show the tide pool animals to the students via zoom. I’d then discuss their adaptations and how those advantages allow them to thrive in specific tidal zones. 

Additionally, I participated in a few virtual lighthouse tour programs for students as the videographer! I got to record some of our rangers act as the Lighthouse Keeper or the Lighthouse Keeper’s wife, in which they discussed the historical background of the lighthouse while dressed in proper 1900’s coastal attire. The lighthouse’s brick white interior is contrasted by stark black stairs that spiral ninety-three feet to the top. I was able to access the highest point where the now automated bulb is located. It’s an absolutely spectacular view and even more of an incredible feeling to be standing at the top. At one point in time, keepers and their families devoted their lives day and night to keeping the light running during calm and dangerous climate!

I also had the opportunity to lead a Tide Pool School program as the indoor ranger! The role as the indoor ranger, who was stationed back at the IC in front of a green screen, was to create the structure of the lesson and to use visuals, physical movement, and lots of student participation to ensure active learning. After the outdoor ranger located an animal and discussed some of their adaptations, I would summarize important points or introduce new facts while I displayed a picture or a video (of said animal) on the green screen. I followed this up by asking students to create their own movements for animals to represent their adaptations. It was fun seeing what they came up with! It was a blast being able to teach students who were very creative and inquisitive.

So what’s next? We are currently transitioning to in-person environmental programs which will continue until June 3rd. As an EFTA intern, I have also been organizing and planning for World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 14th. Stay tuned for more!

At the Interpretive Center with a surf scooter (Melanitta perspicillata) taxidermy
Yaquina Head Lighthouse

1 Comment
  • Alejandra Robles
    Posted at 19:17h, 13 May

    I’ve had such a great time hearing about your journey as an EFTA intern and learning new things about the tide pools! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your time in Newport!