Linda Chilton, education coordinator for the USC Sea Grant Program, housed in USC Dornsife, has received the prestigious Marine Educators Award from the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA).
Chilton received the award recognizing her work in Southern California during the past 23 years from NMEA at the group’s national meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, in July.
In 2008, Chilton joined USC Sea Grant, part of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. She had previously been an educator at the Cabrillo Aquarium in San Pedro for 17 years. The nomination for her NMEA award had numerous references from educators in Southern California who gave credit to Chilton’s understanding of marine science, educational techniques and the idea of “ocean literacy.”
The nomination said:
“Linda has the ability to communicate with learners of all ages and with colleagues of all levels of expertise, from wide-eyed preschoolers to elementary teachers who are unsure about how to teach ocean-related curricula. She has a terrific combination of a gentle, friendly personality and endless enthusiasm for all things marine. As a teacher, she is truly the ‘guide at the side’ who will encourage learners to discover things for themselves.”
Chilton is a native of Southern California, and worked as a special education teacher for 10 years before she joined the Cabrillo Aquarium. There, she created the aquarium’s successful Sea Rangers Naturalist Program for middle and high school students, and worked on its Key to the Sea program, which complements classroom visits to the aquarium with interactive beach experiences and teacher training.
Since joining USC, Chilton has led the Sea Grant Island Explorer Program to bring underserved middle and high school students to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, and the Sea Grant Parent-Child Education Program as well. Her many contacts with scientists and educators have strengthened collaborations with the Los Angeles Charter School Science Partnership and the COSEE-West program administered by USC Sea Grant and UCLA with funding from the National Science Foundation.
Dena Deck, a marine science education consultant in Long Beach, said Chilton has a passion for the subjects she teaches and a gift for presenting them.
“Linda’s ability to reach students at any level is phenomenal,” Deck wrote in support of the NMEA award. “She has a special ability to convey complex principles of ocean science in understandable and engaging ways. Her love for the ocean and the environment is unparalleled; she has an absolute gift for drawing the students’ and adults’ attention to the subject matter to which she is so devoted.”
Chilton has also contributed greatly to the education of educators, especially at informal science centers.
“Linda has always been a source of inspiration, ideas and action,” said Tara Treiber, an education consultant and former education director at Heal the Bay in Santa Monica, in support of the NMEA award.
“Without her presence and knowledge, the Los Angeles area marine education community would not be as strong as it is.”