21 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by hulahawaii1976

Sunset Ridge Completes Whale Watching Platform

With help from the community, Sunset Ridge students are having a "whale of a good time" watching the wildlife from their custom-made platform, The Oversea.

Sunset Ridge Completes Whale Watching Platform Sunset Ridge Completes Whale Watching Platform Sunset Ridge Completes Whale Watching Platform Sunset Ridge Completes Whale Watching Platform Sunset Ridge Completes Whale Watching Platform

has a new edition to its campus: a specially-built whale-watching platform.

Named “The Oversea” by the students and teachers, this beautifully designed platform was the culmination of ideas and help from Sunset Ridge parents and staff and surrounding businesses. Shaped in the form of a whale’s tail, The Oversea is a play on words: the students can look over the sea and oversee whale migration and the surrounding landscape.

Pacifica parents, teachers, and community businesses have a history of pulling together to create out-of-the-box learning opportunities, and The Oversea is just another example.

It all started last year when Pacifica parent and PTA member John Edwards asked principal Ellie Cundiff if he could help with school projects or possibly writing grants. After some discussion, and the impromptu watching of migrating whales last school year, led to the idea of whale-watching platform. 

But with struggling budgets, no one was sure that this idea would be viable. It was only until a request came from student Kayla Nerge.

“Kayla was principal for the day, and she decided to write a letter to Home Depot, asking them for help, “ said Cundiff. “We were all thrilled when David Duran, the Home Depot manager, wrote us back asking us for more information!”

Duran asked the school for specifics, and Home Depot sent out a team to look at the space.  Home Depot agreed to help with the project, giving over $9,000 and building and clearing the land over two weekends.

The Pacifica Parent Teacher Association (PTA) also pooled their resources and helped to gather additional funds, raising another $7,000.

Parent Brian Jensen was the lead contractor, and with help from other local businesses, including pizza lunches from breakfast munchies from , TY Construction, and and parent help from the PTA, the platform structure was completed by early September.

Master gardeners from the University of California Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties Program have a donated their time, plants, and mulch for the indigenous plants that surround it.

“I live here and see some of the people who helped and they ask about it. It really was a community event,” Cundiff explained, with a smile.

The students have already been able to enjoy the benefits of The Oversea, having class time outside.

“The kids are noticing their surroundings out here. They are really paying attention to what they see and hear. It’s especially nice on clear days!” Cundiff said.

Over the next few weeks, Cundiff hopes that the information plaques will be mounted along the beans inside the platform.  These plaques will explain what the students see when they look out over the ocean, as well as defining the space to what they study about whales.

“The platform is 40 feet across, which is half the length of most whales.  It gives students perspective to what 40 feet really looks like, “Cundiff explains. “Also, there will be plaques about how fog forms and we are hoping to get binoculars donated so students will be able to see the whales clearly!”

If you would like to help Sunset Ridge, donations are welcome. Please contact Principal Ellie Cundiff at cundiff@pacificasd.org.

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