2002 Annual

Monday, 14 January 2002: 1:30 PM
Bringing the ocean to the K-12 Classroom using a Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory and a National Estuarine Research Reserve
Janice D. McDonnell, Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ; and M. P. De Luca
The Institute of Marine & Coastal Science (IMCS) at Rutgers University has successfully capitalized on human interest and fascination with the ocean by using the marine environment as an entry point to develop interest and capability in understanding science. This natural interest can be used as a springboard to encourage educators and their students to use the marine environment as a focal point while developing basic skills in reading, writing, math, problem-solving, and critical thinking. As the managing agency of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JC NERR), IMCS has remained committed to making its faculty, staff resources and advanced technology available to educators and their students. With the selection of model science programs and the development of collaborative school projects and Internet connections, IMCS strives to make science education more exciting and relevant to current environmental policy issues. With this approach, educators can short circuit the arduous rote memorization exercises commonly associated with the study of science, and replace it with first-hand experiences found within the scientific and cultural resources of New Jersey. By encouraging scientists and educators to work together to spark interesting and meaningful science learning in the classroom, NJ students become better prepared not only as potential scientists, but as informed decision-makers and citizens as well.

A current example of this approach includes the development of a web based science module (http://marine.rutgers.edu/cousteau) that utilizes scientific data and technological assets of the Long-term Ecosystem Observatory know as LEO. Activities resulting from this program are engaging students in real-time science to improve their problem solving and critical thinking skills--essential skills to interpret, analyze, and communicate information. These experiences are used to 1) enhance educator capability in science content and skills, 2) immerse school systems in an inquiry-driven, active learning process, and 3) establish links to real-time scientific information in support of classroom activities. This program, which is funded by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), facilitates the incorporation of real-time environmental information available through LEO-15 and satellite remote sensing technology into existing, interdisciplinary curricula. Internet-based, instructional modules produced by this effort are being broadly disseminated through professional development workshops for K-12 educators and via the Internet. By providing classrooms with access to real-time data from the coastal ocean, this project provides students and educators with access to an environment typically unreachable by the yellow school bus. Preliminary evaluations indicate the need for education programs that are scientifically robust and broadly available.

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