November 2023

Seymour Center Teaches Kids About Climate Change

Devastating floods, fires, and drought – Santa Cruz County has directly felt the impacts of climate change in recent years.

To combat the growing crisis through public education and outreach, the Seymour Center has revamped their facility with interactive activities demonstrating research conducted through UCSC.
While the dominant discourse of climate change is often seen through the lens of global impact, the Seymour Center’s focus is on Monterey Bay.

They act as a megaphone of local scientific findings.

“One of the goals of this new center is to do community engagement and help advance local solutions,” said Executive Director Jonathan Hicken.

As a community we may not be able to solve climate change for the whole planet, but we can make this community more resilient to what is coming.”

After Hicken’s collaboration with individuals throughout the community, he understood it was a demand that many people shared.

UC Santa Cruz was willing to fund the new exhibit through the Center for Coastal Climate Resilience – which was allotted $20 million from California’s state budget.

While the Center kept its aquarium, rotating exhibits such as the photo exhibit and water cycle maze have been replaced with booths designed to engage people of all ages of the rapidly developing impacts of climate change on Santa Cruz County.

The newly designed facility was on full display with its opening Block Party on the Bluff.
This took place Friday, Oct. 6, at the Center – which is located at 100 McAllister Way in Santa Cruz.
One of the tables allows the user to propel a wave towards varying structures representing the danger of rising storm surges to more susceptible beaches.

Another displays local bio-friendly inventions including Cruz Foam, which is a styrofoam alternative made from chitin – a natural material found in shrimp shells.

Apart from the integration of the climate stations, the Seymour Center also features the new addition of a kids’ library, a terrarium of local plants, and even a publicly accessible microscope.

Jordan Boudreau, Associate Director of Community Engagement and Yale graduate of architecture, designed the Center’s new look.

The facility was created to help expand community knowledge and involvement regarding the issue, as he explained how “over the past few years we’re seeing more and more the effects of climate change, which are global but manifesting in really clear ways. Like flooding in Pajaro, erosion in Santa Cruz, and fires everywhere.”

Production for the new facility began in March, and was poised to start for the beginning of the school year, as UCSC undergraduate students have free access to the Seymour Center.

The tables were designed to be easily rotatable so, in the case of a pressing climate issue of urgent importance such as a wildfire, it can be highlighted.

One point of emphasis for the Center was to make education of climate issues equally accessible to everyone in Santa Cruz county, so all materials are now bilingual with Spanish.

Impoverished communities are at particular risk at the brunt of climate disasters – as seen with the Pajaro flooding this year. Lower income areas are less likely to receive funding for maintenance, which often comes at the expense of those who call it home.

Recent climate catastrophes have played a significant role in the additions brought to the Seymour Center as it becomes evident that the only way to understand what to expect from climate change is to learn the science behind it.

“If you’re a family in Santa Cruz, come to the Seymour Center,” said Hicken. “Discover these solutions, and more importantly, discover how you and your kids can get involved and make a difference right now.”
Education Director Kevin Keedy is a firm believer and advocate of play-based learning and looked to involve kids in the open and free-flowing environment of the new look Seymour Center.

When Hicken stepped into the role of Executive Director in August of 2021, the Center only had 5 full time staff members due to deceleration during the pandemic.

Just over two years later, they have 11 employees with 16 working part time, and over 150 volunteers.
The public daily admission cost is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, and $9 for children. Yearly memberships are $80 for a family.

While climate change can often feel like an overwhelming and incomprehensible task, the Seymour Center localizes it for a fun and educational experience made for everyone in Santa Cruz County.
“Really what this is about is optimism and hope,” said Hicken. “If we come together and we advance these solutions, we can keep Santa Cruz safe.”

By Quinn Southall

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