TOTE Leads to Classroom Success

Mar 15, 2018 | Tijuana River, California

Local students enjoy a well-earned field trip to the Tijuana River Reserve. Image courtesy of the Tijuana River Reserve
Before Marci Sponsler attended her first Teacher’s on the Estuary (TOTE) training at the Tijuana River Reserve, most of her students had not even heard of an estuary. After her TOTE experience, she returned to Roosevelt Middle School on fire to turn a local estuary into a living classroom for her seventh grade students.

Sponsler could see how “having a local estuary was critical to helping make connections to the subject matter” in Estuaries 101, an online curriculum developed by the NERRS education coordinators that she learned about during her TOTE training. She encouraged her fellow educators to teach a six-week unit based on  “(Don’t) Shut Your Mouth,” an Estuaries 101 lesson that encourages students to make evidence-based conclusions about the impacts of development, pollution, and climate on the nearby Los Peñasquitos Lagoon.

For example, the Roosevelt Middle School students used Google Earth images to discover a train line running through the lagoon that impacted the estuary’s mouth, which can cause dissolved oxygen levels to drop dramatically and impact aquatic life. Each student capped off the lesson with a project based on issues covered in Estuaries 101, including watershed dynamics, pollution and climate impacts, and estuary life. Those who submitted the top 72 projects won a field trip to the Reserve.

At the end of the unit, students were tested on their estuary ecology knowledge and almost half got a B or better. The curriculum aligns nicely with California’s new 7th grade Next Generation Science Standards, which focus on ecosystems and earth science, and Roosevelt Middle School teachers plan to use it in future years.

“I was so excited to hear about the success the students were able to achieve by using NERRS education products with the support of a teacher who made the most of her TOTE experience,” says Tijuana River Reserve Education Coordinator Anne Marie Tipton. “In fact, we already have almost 20 middle and high school teachers enrolled in our upcoming TOTE program this May

ReservesTijuana River, CaliforniaTOTE Leads to Classroom Success