Teachers on the Estuary

Teachers on the Estuary

Oregon teachers brave gray skies for a research cruise with South Slough Reserve staff.

Whether they are in Oregon, Alabama, or any other coastal state, all teachers need opportunities for professional development, particularly those that meet Next Generation standards for education. In response, Reserves partnered with NOAA to create Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE), a national program that delivers local trainings that get teachers out of their classrooms and into estuaries, where they can use local research to improve their understanding of the environment.

TOTE workshops have reached hundreds of teachers—and by extension tens of thousands of students. Each workshop has a unique theme, but they share three essential qualities: authentic learning experiences that promote estuary stewardship, connections to research, and field-based exploration.

Highlights from 2019

Oregon teachers braved gray skies, icy passes, and winter precipitation to spend three days with South Slough Reserve staff, studying ocean acidification and the impact of a changing atmosphere on estuaries and oceans. They explored water quality with a Reserve scientist, took a research cruise, and discussed how to make the science more relevant to their students and overcome obstacles they face in teaching these issues. With the aid of an artist and ocean historian, they also collaborated to identify ways environmental arts and humanities can strengthen ocean acidification lessons.

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At Alabama’s Weeks Bay Reserve, local educators learned about the different types of marine debris that impact the Gulf Coast. They explored shoreline monitoring and went on a field trip to sample for microplastics in Weeks Bay. The Reserve provided supplies for various marine debris activities that educators could take back to their classrooms. All were encouraged to bring their students back to the Reserves for future sampling, so they could share in the experience and learn about the impacts for themselves. 

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Georgia’s Sapelo Island Reserve built a unique program for teachers from Coweta County—one of the furthest counties from the Atlantic—that allowed them to trace the flow of Georgia rivers to the sea. Research and education staff helped the teachers learn about estuaries and coastal management issues in Georgia, and compare the state’s watersheds. The experience culminated with an excursion on a University of Georgia research vessel. Teachers returned to their classroom with a better understanding of Georgia’s unique ecosystems and the complex issues surrounding them.

Supporting Massachusetts Teachers

Supporting Massachusetts Teachers

When the COVID-19 pandemic turned students across Massachusetts into remote learners, Waquoit Bay Reserve’s education staff leapt into action to support the teachers who are helping them learn at a distance.

The Reserve offered a webinar on how environmental educators can get students “away from the screen” and into their own backyards by providing concrete ways for students to do real science while conforming to social distancing guidelines.

The webinar was so well-attended and well-received that more professional development trainings for teachers are in the pipeline. The Reserve has also made a number of remote learning resources available on their website.

South Slough Restoration Project Connects Community

South Slough Restoration Project Connects Community

Oregon’s South Slough Reserve transformed the unhealthy forest around their visitor’s center in the fall of 2019.

The project was designed to reduce fire risk, improve forest health, diversify habitat, and enhance educational opportunities at the visitor’s center.  As a result of the work, the Reserve was able to donate 120 cedar logs harvested from the project to two local tribal nations, the Coquille and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw. Other logs were used to make visitor benches and milled into boards for future wildlife education programs.

Over 2,300 students were educated at the South Slough Reserve in 2019, and the marriage of a major stewardship project to education expanded the Reserve’s capacity for 2020, and benefited the local tribal community too. Now that’s a win-win!

Students Virtually Explore Rookery Bay

Students Virtually Explore Rookery Bay

To better serve their community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s Rookery Bay Reserve is taking student and family programming online every day in April and May.

Students “staying at home” can continue to learn about the 110,000 acres of land and water that Rookery Bay protects, as well as the wildlife that live there. Each week of has a theme—from shark research to water monitoring to coastal resilience—and comes with videos, tours, downloadable activities and quizzes, which are all available on the Rookery Bay Reserve website.

In 2019 more than 12,000 community members visited the Reserve’s Environmental Learning Center, and 1,400 students participated in their programs. By taking that engagement online, the Rookery Bay Reserve is connecting people with their estuary while keeping the community safe.

Teachers Boost Data Literacy

Teachers Boost Data Literacy

If you need trusted training on data literacy and Next Generation Science Standards, who you gonna call? California’s Tijuana River Reserve

San Diego Unified’s Teachers on Special Assignment reached out to the Reserve after identifying a need for data literacy and Next Generation Science Standards training among their members. In response, Reserve education and research staff partnered to train 27 middle school and 10 high school teachers in 2019.

The partnership between the Reserve and the districtwhich is California’s second largestwas a first. Through it, the Reserve was able to build data competency among the teachers, and by extension, the students who will grow up to be coastal California’s next generation of scientists, decision makers, and community members.

Local Research Becomes Online Learning

Local Research Becomes Online Learning

What better place to start with science education than your own backyard? In 2019, that question inspired Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Reserve and their local school district to partner to develop interactive online lessons about local research projects in the St. Louis River estuary.

Every 5th grade class in the Superior school district now has access to these lessons, which cover topics like algal blooms, coastal flooding, and wild rice restoration. The lessons align closely with state science standards and are delivered in a format similar to the rest of the district’s science curriculum.

They didn’t have a global pandemic in mind, but the Reserve and their partners have made it possible for the region’s children to continue to build science literacy and connect with their Great Lake.

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