“It was less about having the students memorize information and more about the wonder.”
The University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences recently hosted the SeaDoc Society and its Explore the Salish Sea Educator Workshop with the goal of working with King County-area teachers to meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by incorporating local Salish Sea issues and topics into their classrooms. The workshop provided NGSS training to the 37-educators in attendance and gave them the opportunity to help craft a new and engaging curriculum that focuses around the Salish Sea. The workshop was also designed to connect teachers with regional marine experts, including scientists, educators, and indigenous ecologists and knowledge sharers. The formation and cultivation of these relationships will aid in removing barriers common to teaching science in elementary schools and help motivate students to explore the natural world.
Central to the workshop was the book, Explore the Salish Sea A Nature Guide for Kids, which is aimed at young readers and beautifully captures the unique marine environment found in the Pacific Northwest. To date the SeaDoc Society has given out more than 2,500 copies of this book to low-income schools in the region. By introducing familiar concepts to educators, and then to students, this book will help increase awareness for local environmental issues
“The hope is to raise a new generation who knows, connects with, and protects the Salish Sea and all its resources,” says Mira Castle, Education Coordinator for the SeaDoc Society.
In addition to inviting marine educators and scientists to the workshop, the SeaDoc Society also invited representatives from the Indigenous tribes that surround the Salish Sea, which further enriches the experience for all participants. Castle describes the groups involved as the perfect trifecta: people from academia, informal educators, and tribes all come together, share successes, enhance community, and spark passion for local environmental issues in students. Other organizations in attendance as part of an open resource fair were the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), Washington Sea Grant, Students Explore Aquatic Sciences (SEAS), and the Burke Museum Ichthyology Collection.
During an exercise presented by SEAS, teachers broke into three groups to explore why Chinook salmon are declining more rapidly than pink salmon in Puget Sound. Each group tested a different hypothesis: loss of habitat, food availability, and water quality, and then presented their findings. SEAS Director and SAFS Diversity Specialist and Research Scientist, Isadora Jimenez, explains that the lessons developed by the SEAS outreach group are built around the work of current SAFS researchers. Michelle Chow and Catherine Austin are two such researchers who helped bring this exercise to life, demonstrating how the scientific method can be implemented through a local lens and a well-known species.
“We chose to share the lesson because of its relevance in Puget Sound, the Salish Sea, and the Pacific Northwest, and because it aligned with the overall goals of the workshop,” says Jimenez.
Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive; many participants citing building connections among teachers and scientists as well as the ability to incorporate NGSS to lessons as outstanding attributes of the workshop.
The SeaDoc Society also offers an assortment of online resources designed for kids through their Junior Sea Doctors website. There, students and educators can explore more of the Salish Sea and its inhabitants through blog posts, videos, lesson plans, and games. The website also includes an interactive map of marine experts, helping to connect teachers with marine science, education, and conservation organizations throughout the region looking to support class’ exploration through knowledge, resources, classroom visits, and field trips.
To learn more about upcoming Explore the Salish Sea Educator workshops or if you are a researcher looking to connect with teachers visit: www.juniorseadoctors.com. SeaDoc is additionally grateful to the Mitsubishi Corporation for sponsoring five of these educator workshops.