Sign of Summer: Teachers on the Estuary!

Jun 3, 2024

Virginia and the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s TOTE teachers.

A sure sign of summer has arrived: California’s Elkhorn Slough Reserve is converting the estuary into a classroom for teacher training! They held their first Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop of the season in May. 

Educators of all kinds put on their student hats and dove into the wonder of estuaries and explored the impacts we have on coastal habitats. In the process, they built their capacity to bring this science—and the estuary—back to the classroom.

“TOTE is about helping educators see the estuary as their year round classroom,” says Reserve Education Coordinator Virginia Guhin. “They learn how to interpret and use local data, develop field trips that encourage first-hand observation, and adapt ready-made curricula and activities for their students. This year, they learned how to help students collect and assess water samples—and understand why this kind of work is important.”

Elkhorn Slough’s TOTE workshop is one of many happening around the Reserve System. At every Reserve, TOTE workshops provide educators with the opportunity to enhance their professional development in ways that meet Next Generation education standards. These workshops and other Reserve education programs reach thousands of teachers—and by extension—tens of thousands of students annually. While each TOTE training is different, they all emphasize authentic learning experiences that promote estuary stewardship, connections to research, and field-based exploration.

“This program exemplifies the power of a national System when you want to create more impactful local experiences that also offset education costs at the state and community levels,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “TOTE was born out of the shared experience of educators from across the country’s Reserves. Together, they identified a common challenge and built a framework so every Reserve could address it in ways that meet the needs of the many educators they support.”

TOTE workshops are popular with educators, with many returning for continued education. 

“I plan on using the curriculum in the binder, and bringing my students to test the water quality and use the microscope lab,” says Becca Bing, science teacher with Santa Cruz County Office of Education and workshop participant.

“The workshop provided a whole picture frame from which to work with when I teach ecology,” says Angelique Jezequel, high school science teacher and another workshop participant. 

Reserves partner with NOAA to create TOTE. For more information about this national NERRS program and to find a workshop near you, visit the TOTE page on NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management website.

TOTE teachers conducting plant surveys in the marsh to better understand SLR in the estuary.

Teachers learning how to use water quality sampling tools.

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ReservesElkhorn Slough, CaliforniaSign of Summer: Teachers on the Estuary!