The Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans (WMFO) Virtual Field Trips are designed as individual 45-minute classes carefully crafted for select audiences: elementary, middle or high school students. Optional preparatory materials, including videos, are available for teachers to share with their students. Our fall program will launch with eight workshops taught by experienced teachers; expanded programming will be coming winter session.

Our Virtual Field Trips begin with our moderator introducing the instructor and describing his/her often surprising career path. Each live, interactive program, introduces an area of science that is depicted on THE MAP, and approaches the topic in a fun and engaging way. A brief slideshow of images and key concepts leads to a discussion encouraging students to expand their knowledge of the subject. Each program allows time for a lively Q & A session, with an opportunity for students to discuss how small changes in their everyday lives can lead to real-world solutions that will improve the health of our oceans.

To encourage further exploration and discovery, our STEAM educators will provide each class with ideas for follow-up activities including art projects (painting, sculpting, mixed media), experiments using common household items, and other creative challenges. Students will be invited to submit project outcomes as digital media that can be highlighted in short blog posts or showcased on WMFO social media platforms. (We will be honoring the rules of student anonymity and privacy.)

These Virtual Field Trips aim to present science in an easy to understand way that sparks curiosity and inspires students of all ages to delve deeper into each subject. In the weeks ahead, THE MAP of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla will open to the public as a hands-on extension of our Virtual Field Trips. THE MAP will also have a unique, interactive online presence with fact sheets, photos and videos to enhance the experience.

In collaboration with ArtsBusXpress
ES Elementary School // MS Middle School // HS High School

Seals In Shifting Seas
Curricula Grade Levels:  MS, HS

How is climate change affecting seals in our kelp forests and their cousins in the Arctic Circle? Together, we discover how local harbor seals use their sandy beach habitats to lounge in the sun, give birth and nurse their young. We discuss why the seas are warming, and how this disrupts age-old rhythms for many of the seal species. Ice-loving harp seals in the far north are experiencing habitat meltdown. We compare and contrast resulting challenges and surprising adaptations, followed by a discussion about the possible outcome climate change could have on the future of these seals. Follow-up NGSS curriculum is provided for teachers looking for a deeper dive into the subject.  

Tide Pool Animals Revealed
Curricula Grade Levels: ES, MS

Squish, splash, squirt…unlocking intertidal mysteries. This class introduces students the challenges of life in a tiny, yet extreme, tide-pool universe. They will learn about dynamic intertidal zones including the best times and tides to visit local tidepools and the cast of characters who live there. Discussion of safety guidelines and tide-pool etiquette prepares students to peer into the ever-changing world of these fragile, yet highly-adaptable animals. Students can participate in a follow-up scavenger hunt featuring creatures found on THE MAP, either in-person or on our interactive website.

Hunters of the Kelp Forest…and Beyond
Grades: ES, MS, HS

Top predators like orcas, sharks, and sea lions give us important clues to ocean health…if you know where to look. We follow exciting research that studies different predator-prey interactions, exploring  how these dynamic exchanges occur. The food web is complex. Together we will see how scientists and lawmakers use new computer modeling programs that work a lot like a video game, to understand how decisions are made and how they affect fish populations around the world. Students will be introduced to new NOAA modeling software and will learn the value of conservation.

The Art & Science of Sea Animal Rescue
Curricula Grade Levels: ES, MS, HS

How can you help a sea animal in trouble? We will learn the steps students should take if they find an animal in distress. Exciting true stories about the rescues of a starving sea turtle with a tumor, a sea lion pup with serious fishing line injuries, and J.J. the Orphaned Baby Gray Whale, who is depicted on THE MAP, will be shared. Techniques used to capture, rehabilitate and ultimately release these animals back to the ocean will be described, as well as modern tagging and identification methods  used by researchers to learn more about their behavior and migration patterns.

Sailing in a Sea of Synthetic Debris
Curricula Grade Levels: MS, HS

Join us as we virtually set sail to find the vortex of plastic trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Students will virtually visit the Great Pacifc Garbage Patch to learn about plastic pollution in our oceans today; how it developed, how it affects the ocean and its inhabitants, and what each of us can do to minimize the problem. It introduces key physical oceanography and marine biology concepts with rare footage filmed by scuba divers and accounts of a real-life, aggressive invader fish species aptly named the “knife-jaw.”  This class is designed to leave a lasting impression that will inspire and empower young explorers to refuse single-use plastics, participate in beach clean-ups, and become active ocean stewards.

Marine Invertebrate Taxonomy Unveiled
Curricula Grade Levels: ES, MS

The strong, spineless, and sometimes slimy world of marine invertebrates awaits! If you lack a backbone or a bony skeleton, then you are likely to be one of over 95% of known animal species in the phylum invertebrata! Join us in our  investigation of how and why marine invertebrates are divided into taxonomic groups. This program establishes a “backbone” for identifying various animals depicted in the LithoMosaic  art/science STEAM installation at La Jolla Shores Beach entitled “THE MAP of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla.” Together, we will explore featured concepts related to taxonomy and the classification of life.

Meet California’s Marine Mammals
Curricula Grade Levels: ES, MS, HS

Dive into the undersea realm of big, bold, beautiful breath-holders. From sassy sea lions that bark incessantly, to the majestic whales that sing as they pass our shores, La Jolla provides the perfect venue for viewing many species of ocean-dwelling mammals brimming with personality. In this lesson, we will learn about mammalian adaptations to living in the sea, including deep diving, echolocation and acoustic communication, and the physics of hydrodynamics. Students learn the basic steps to sculpt make-and-bake-at-home figurines of these amazing air-breathing mammals.

A Diver’s View of the Underwater World
Curricula Grade Levels: ES, MS, HS

Something transformative happens when you don a mask and fins and enter the ocean for the first time to snorkel, free dive or scuba dive. This virtually-immersive class teaches students about the basic equipment and skills needed to experience the world beneath the waves. Basic concepts in the physics and physiology behind diving are explained as well as steps involved in becoming a citizen scientist or a scientific researcher.  New technologies like rebreathers that allow humans to go deeper and stay down longer than ever before will be introduced.  A new VR program will take students on a virtual scuba dive to inspire further undersea exploration and discovery.

For more information or to book, contact:
Shawna Weaver, Director of Education and Outreach

Lorrie Blackard Friet is well-known for her love of spending extended time at sea. As senior instructor at San Diego Floating Lab, a program that explores the wonders of the ocean aboard a research vessel in San Diego Bay, Friet is responsible for hosting cohorts of 30-70 students from San Diego county and visitors from Arizona, Colorado, and Mexico for half-day sea adventures. Student scientists learn how to identify fish and other sea life living in the bay, examine seawater from a microscopic view, and learn techniques oceanographers use for data collection. Friet is a board member of the non-profit Spiral Pacific, and dedicated to global marine conservation.​

Prior Courses/Workshops Taught: Slimy Sea Creatures, Math of Murals, Wonderful Waves, Marine Mammals of California, and Ocean Science Education  for the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation

Secret Talent:  Friet is an experienced artist known for her paintings worldwide, including her featured art at Tower 23 Hotel in San Diego. Each spring, Friet mentors students who add to the mural surrounding the joint-use field at Pacific Beach Elementary; it will be 1000 feet long when completed!

Alex Hangsterfer is the Geological Collections Manager at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), where she obtained her Master’s Degree in Oceanography. Her focus is on education and outreach;   teaching for Sally Ride Science at the University of California, San Diego, hosting dozens of lab tours at SIO each year, and visiting K-12 classrooms, both in person and virtually, to give presentations. Alex co-authored a NGSS-compatible curriculum pertaining to climate change and its effects on ice seals. 

Prior Courses/Workshops Taught: Messy Science 

Secret Talent:  Alex is highly skilled at colorful side-walk chalk art…scientifically accurate, of course. You will never see one of her side-walk chalk sharks missing a gill or a fin!

Dr. Debi Kilb is a seismologist at SIO with a research focus on earthquake interactions (mainshocks/aftershocks), earthquake source physics, and earthquake early warning methods.  Kilb has always been interested in the interplay between science and art and was the Science Director of the SIO Visualization Center (2002-2009), Science Outreach Director of Sally Ride Science (2016-2018), and the Director of SIO Games, a group that developed geoscience video games (2014-2017).  

Prior Courses/Workshops Taught:  Music of Earthquakes, Geoscience Videogame Explorations (Xbox Kinect and Virtual Reality).

Secret Talent: Debi is a math and science geek who enjoys teaching five-year olds the concept of “infinity,” and she likes to play-act her demonstrations that infinity is just an eight sleeping (don’t overthink it). She has a wonderful smile and spreads joy to all those she encounters. You can often see her in the news right after an earthquake because she’s the go-to gal for media interviews following a major shake.

Debi’s Availability:  Not available until Winter 2021

Cynthia Matzke is the Director of Education and Outreach for WMFO, with a background in journalism, marine biology, and video production. She graduated from SIO with a Masters in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and continues to work with Scripps Marine Physical Lab on special projects. Her passion for scuba diving along with filming remote ocean ecosystems has brought her eye to eye with rare species in some unusual places and, as a trained injured wildlife responder, she has assisted with many rescues. She is an Adjunct Professor at NewSchool of Architecture + Design, creating STEAM curricula for learners of all ages. Ms.Matzke is an Explorers Club Fellow who has sailed over 10,000 miles to study plastic pollution, dives in Arctic sea-ice for fun, and loves to bring marine ecology lessons from the field into the classroom.

Prior Courses/Workshops Taught: Deep Sea Exploration, Culinary Chemistry & Design, Coral Reef EcoArt, Glorious Chocolate, Arctic Mammals, How to Make A Disaster Film Using Real Science, Exploring Kelp Forest Ecosystems, Sights and Sounds of Northern Seas, and Passport to the Pacific. College-level includes Research and Communications, and The Pacific Ocean.

Secret Talent: Cynthia is an active mentor to several early-career professionals, and enjoys empowering diverse students from underserved communities from San Diego to the Arctic by sharing her contagious enthusiasm for science, ocean exploration and conservation.

Beth Besom is a worldly and adventurous soul who has enjoyed a variety of exciting careers in her lifetime. By the age of 20, she had already lived in eight countries. Out of college, she designed and fabricated costumes for the theater in NYC. She became a mounted sergeant in the NYC Parks, combining her love for animals and the outdoors, while educating the public. After a moving encounter with a baby gray whale in Baja California, Beth returned to NYC and joined the NY Aquarium Dive Team. Soon after, she moved to the British Virgin Islands to work as a licensed PADI scuba instructor, where she created and led dynamic environmental programs for children ages 7-14 years old. She relocated to California in 2018 to work for Walter Munk. Beth is currently using her talents as a scientific communicator, as a producer for the Splash! educational video series. She became an Advisor for the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans in 2019 and teaches programs for underserved youth in San Diego. Beth recently returned from Upolu, Samoa, where she taught diving and introduced a STEM underwater robotics program in the local villages.