Fostering the next generation of ocean lovers

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Project O Founder Rich German engages with students at Annelise Schools. Clara Beard/LB Indy

“Who in this room loves dolphins?”

Dozens of hands shoot up across the classroom.

“Okay, great! And who here also loves whales?”

Hands stay raised, and some reach even higher into the air.

For well-known local ocean advocate Rich German, the positive reaction he gets from local students feels promising.

“These kids just light up, so it’s really fun for me,” he said after presenting to Annelise students a few weeks ago. “The kids are receptive to what I’m saying, from kindergarten all the way up to grade nine.”

This fall, German has been busy giving ocean awareness talks to students at Annelise Schools, Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School, with the hope they’ll come away from the experience with a better understanding of what it means to be an ocean steward.

Rich German shares his love of the ocean (and dolphins) with the young students at Annelise Schools. Photo courtesy of Annelise Schools

“I’ve been doing talks like this for years, but just recently, I’ve been making a more concerted effort to do more,” said German, who has his own ocean-advocacy podcast named Our Epic Ocean. “I want people to not only fall in love with the ocean and the life in it, but also understand the problems that humans have created so we work together to find solutions. If I can inspire these kids to become environmentalists or do something in that realm, that’s the goal.”

So far, German has focused his attention on Laguna Beach schools. However, his mission is to expand his efforts inland and talk to kids who may never have had the opportunity to visit the beach.

“I love doing these talks in Laguna, but the goal is also to talk these talks to areas that are under-resourced or Title 1 schools,” German said. “The reality is a very high percentage of students in Orange County have never been to the beach, let alone the ocean. I want to talk to those kids.

German has recently developed new partnerships with the Ocean Institute, the Pacific Marine Mammal Rescue Center and the Crystal Cove Conservancy, with the hopes that he can speak to students and then take them out on a field trip to experience the ocean.  

“Imagine taking these kids out that have never been on the beach, let alone on the ocean, to the Ocean Institute, where they learn some science, and then we let them out on the water, or they go to the rescue center, and then maybe let them go to a sea lion release on the beach. I’ve been blessed to have these experiences every day, and I want to share that with kids who would be unlikely to have it on their own,” German said.

To keep up with German’s ocean advocacy work, visit his Instagram page at @richgermanlb or www.project-o.org.

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