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Jacqui Stanley: Teacher • Artist • Author • Ocean Conservationist

interview by Wendy Slaton | photos by gillean j photography

Jacqui Stanley is not only an amazing teacher at Houston’s Yorkshire Academy, artist, and children’s author, she has a passion to protecting our oceans, and that dedication is being passed along to younger generations.

Tell us a little about you.

I’ve worked in education for more than 30 years. This is my sixth year with Yorkshire Academy, where I currently teach fourth grade and art. I am married to an incredibly supportive and patient man, and we have three wonderful children and six incredible grandchildren. I’m from Australia, and I enjoy Scuba diving, underwater photography, writing and exploring First Nations and Native-American art and culture.

What is one thing others may not know about you?

I have dived in all oceans of the world except the Antarctic—hoping to do so one day.

What is the SEEDS program? How are the students participating?

We began this school year with 30 students who were eager to learn more about our ocean, and in particular, to discover the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuaries. SEEDS is an acronym for Students Engaging in Environment through Discovery and Science. Our SEEDS volunteers meet each Friday lunchtime to learn about the ocean. This will be our third year of SEEDS.

Small groups of SEEDS have chosen one marine sanctuary each to create a science lesson about their sanctuary, and how they could teach others about that sanctuary using ART! We have Origami Orcas, Turtle Tales, Monitor Battleship Archaeology and so much more. The SEEDS have been invited to give a presentation at Rice University’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program in Bioscience in January.

Yorkshire Academy has been designated as an Ocean Guardian School. What does this mean?

I have a long-standing connection to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and I hold the Education Seat on the Advisory Council. Last summer, I submitted a proposal for funding a hands-on ocean stewardship, and as a result, we were one of forty schools nationally to have our project application accepted by the NOAA. We will be the first Ocean Guardian School in the City of Houston once we successfully complete our project.

Tell us more about the project? 

Our project involves discovering what is in our water? Students will analyze water sources from our watershed. We will test water from our taps to our Tower Garden to Buffalo Bayou and eventually water in the Gulf of Mexico. Upper Elementary students will take the lead in data collection and analysis and engineering creativity, and they will become educators and advocates for all our students. I am excited to be working closely with Mrs. DeCherico to make this project a reality.

This land-ocean connection was received by the Ocean Guardian program director and Yorkshire Academy was given a substantial grant to support this project by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and NOAA.

So, beyond the amazing opportunity for these students and faculty, what do you hope the students will take away from the experience?

The project will encourage students to talk about this project and what they’ve learned, and in turn relate their new knowledge to family and friends and the wider community.  We know so much more about space than we do about our ocean, and through this extraordinary opportunity, we will truly show that we are indeed a small group doing big things!

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