Teachers on the Estuary

Apr 20, 2020 | Earth Day, Teachers

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.


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. 


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.

Get InvolvedEarth DayTeachers on the Estuary