Turtles and Art?

We had the most magnificent field trip this past Friday as part of our Swooper Citizens program. When I originally planned the trip to the Turtle Conservancy of Ojai several months ago, my thought was to link the trip to the character trait of Responsibility, focusing on conservation and sustainability. This trip turned out to be so much more!

While planning the trip, I remembered that my friend’s nephew developed an app a few years ago called Turtle Friends. This free conservation app was invented by then-8-year-olds to watch, track, and protect sea turtles around the world. There were 196 backers who pledged $26,403 to help bring this project to life. I thought it would be fun for the students to meet these two inventors and learn about their efforts to help sea turtles. My friend offered to have our classes visit with the boys in a special space she started in memory of her sister: the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation. As luck would have it, the artist in residence at this time, Yassi Mazandi, was inspired by the tortoise shells at the Turtle Conservancy to create beautiful watercolor paintings. I could not believe my luck!

We arrived at the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation space and were in awe of the beauty inside. On display were sculptures and beautiful watercolors from Yassi Mazandi.

Floral skeleton and seed pod scultpures.

Watercolor paintings of shells.

Ms. Mazandi shared her inspiration with the students. She was a natural presenter who clearly enjoyed interacting with the children.

Next, we met Sarah Otterstrom, the executive director of the nonprofit group Paso Pacifico. Paso Pacifico helps restore and protect areas in South America.

Ms. Otterstrom showed us one of the tools they are using to help with conservation: the investEGGator. This pretend turtle egg looks just like the real thing but has an internal GPS. When turtle eggs are stolen, the rangers can track down the thieves!

The students then met the two boys who started Turtle Friends.

The boys spoke about their conservation app where one can watch, track, and protect sea turtles around the world. In creating the app, they had 196 backers who pledged a total of $26,403 to help bring this project to life. The boys also shared the importance of using glass or metal straws and reusable snack bags. (The students could relate to this and eagerly shared that they each have a reusable straw and snack bags from Dr. McCauley’s visit back in October.)

Inspired, we hopped on the bus and headed to the Turtle Conservancy of Ojai.

We were greeted by Max, who shared the mission of the Conservancy with the students. He then took us on a breathtaking tour where students had the rare opportunity to interact with turtles and tortoises that no longer exist in the wild.

Look how fast they walk!

We saw the incubator room as well as the nursery.

The finale was getting to feed and pet the Giant Galapagos Tortoise.


I am so grateful to all those who made this memorable field trip happen. As a way to give back and as part of a collaborative project, students will now work on creating watercolor paintings of turtles. It is my hope that we will sell these works of art and donate the proceeds to the Turtle Conservancy of Ojai. More details to come soon.