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Marine Educator, Expedition Leader, and A Rising Tide Series Host, Mehgan Heaney-Grier freediving in the Bahamas. Photo by Clay Wiseman.

New Documentary Series Seeks to Teach Colorado Kids—and Adults—About the Ocean

A Rising Tide, debuting this Thursday, follows three Colorado students in pursuit of a marine education and scuba diving certification as they look beyond our state’s landlocked border.

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As any Finding Nemo fan can tell you, “All drains lead to the ocean.” The real-world consequence: Even in landlocked Colorado, your waste can contaminate faraway waters. Most of us don’t realize (or think about) that sad fact, which is why Boulder-based swim and dive company Ocean First is partnering with Lafayette’s New Focus Films to launch A Rising Tide, a new documentary web series, on March 22.

For the show, Ocean First gave three Colorado high-schoolers scholarships to attend a six-month marine education and scuba certification program. The 18 episodes (which you’ll be able to find on YouTube) follow the winners as they engage in hands-on experiments with leading experts (such as shark scientist Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza); take classes to become scuba-certified, including diving lessons at Ocean First’s pool; and discuss their career aspirations within the realm of marine biology. “There’s a good chance that some of these kids will have never seen the ocean,” says series host Mehgan Heaney-Grier, who established the first U.S. freedive record in 1996, and has since worked as a stunt diver in TV shows and movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean. “And they’re at the age where an experience like this could set the trajectory for the rest of their lives.”

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The female portion of A Rising Tide Scholars, gearing up for a pool session at Ocean First in Boulder. Photo by: Mehgan Heaney-Grier

Many of the workshops will incorporate lessons about Colorado’s connection with marine environments; for example, about 80 percent of marine debris originates as land-based trash, meaning you don’t have to toss your empty Doritos bag directly into the sea to contribute to ocean pollution. The Ocean First folks hope this type of troubling fact will inspire actionable solutions, like cutting down on single-use plastics (read: the plastic bag you throw away after transporting a few items from the grocery store), that the students can implement at home—and thereby become ambassadors of the environment in their own communities.

But before they head back to less exciting lives as high schoolers, the teenage stars of the documentary series will fly to Florida for a dose of “in-your-face science,” as Heaney-Grier calls it, during dives in the waters surrounding the island of Key Largo. It’s there that they’ll learn the true power of the ocean—and start working on how to save it.

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