Teachers Wade In at the Tijuana Reserve

Jun 29, 2023

Teachers capturing photos on iNaturalist during a Bioblitz.

Last Tuesday, a group of teachers visited a tidal creek feeding into California’s Tijuana River to get “SWMP-ed.” In a good way. With the help of educators and scientists from the Tijuana River Reserve, they experienced how a NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) station works and how to use the weather and water quality data collected there in lesson plans and activities. 

“There just aren’t a lot of other teacher trainings that use local data in our area,” says Anne Marie Tipton, the Reserve’s education coordinator. “It’s place-based, which the teachers we engage really appreciate, and it’s relevant to local science and management.” 

The SWMP station visit was part of the Reserve’s Teachers on the Estuary program—known as “TOTE” for short—which helps educators think of the estuary as their classroom. Through TOTE, they enrich their teaching by learning how to use local data, develop field trips that encourage first-hand observation, and adapt ready-made curricula for their students.

“Place-based learning experiences that are driven by local and meaningful phenomena are essential for supporting the professional learning needs of science teachers,” says Alec Barron, director of the San Diego Science Project, a University of California San Diego project that supports teachers and connects them to researchers. “The Tijuana River Reserve is known as one of the high impact science teacher education programs in our region.”

Teachers measuring wind speed and direction for a weather station school program activity.

Tijuana’s program is one of many being held at Reserves around the country this summer. Each provides educators with opportunities to enhance their professional development in ways that meet Next Generation education standards. TOTE workshops and other Reserve education programs reach thousands of teachers—and by extension—tens of thousands of students annually. Each TOTE training is different depending on the Reserve, but 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.”

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.

Research Associate Monica Almeida demonstrating percent cover vegetation sampling technique to teachers.

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ReservesTeachers Wade In at the Tijuana Reserve