Who doesn’t enjoy a good tide pooling excursion? There are so many fascinating and unusual creatures to be found existing solely at the rocky shore. Kids and adults alike find this ecosystem extremely intriguing.
Yet the majority of visitors to the rocky shore know very little about the animal and plant organisms they are discovering. If you wish to explore New England’s rocky shore, you should definitely look up Coast Encounters before going on your next New England coastline journey…you will not regret it!
This past Sunday I had the pleasure of experiencing a Coast Encounters excursion. Carol Steingart, a marine science educator, started her Coast Encounters business around twenty years ago. She provides intertidal programs that include educational expeditions for small groups at the rocky shore, as well as onsite programs at schools and other locations. Steingart is very passionate and knowledgeable about the intertidal ecosystem and its algae and creatures.
Two of my sons (along with another family) enjoyed spending a beautiful Sunday afternoon with Steingart in Kennebunk, Maine. “Coastal Carol” did a great job of preparing everyone for their wet and rocky journey by ensuring they had adequate footwear and a good understanding of how to navigate this precarious, slippery ecosystem.
Steingart guided us through the intertidal region from creature to creature and algae to algae, providing many fascinating details about each organism that were found. Our three hour program was so full of facts and fun that it was hard to coax my boys from the shore when our journey was over. We thoroughly enjoyed the view, the organisms, the adventure and our great educator!
It is ALMOST complete! The Rocky Shore Marine Science Curriculum: An Ecosystem Unit for Elementary Educators will be accessible to anyone, for free, on April 14th.
I met with Kirsty Walker yesterday, the President of Hobblebush Design, and we thoroughly examined the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum for adjustments that needed to be made. Kirsty is remarkably talented, and for those who have had the chance to get a sneak peak at the ecosystem unit, they have been extremely impressed with its professional appearance and organization.
The following preparations still need to occur before it is deemed “ready for use”:
Complete the Atlantic Ocean Rocky Shore Guide and Life at the Rocky Shore Fact Sheets sections (additions need to be made).
Make final modifications to lesson plans based on classroom teachers’ feedback.
Have experts in the field of marine science and education examine the curriculum one more time before giving it their final approval.
This NGSS-aligned, Ocean Literacy Principles-aligned, 7-week ecosystem unit will prove to be a very valuable and helpful resource to all elementary educators who access it. And one of the coolest features – it will be a “living” document that will be modified from time-to-time to continuously improve it based on teacher and student input.
Lastly, a HUGE thank you to Carol Steingart, President of the Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) and owner of Coast Encounters for promoting this curriculum at this week’s National Science Teacher’s Association Sun, Surf and Science conferences in Los Angeles, California. Your efforts and passion for marine education and conservation are immensely appreciated!
When members of an orchestra tune their instruments before a big concert I imagine there is a high level of anticipatory excitement. That is exactly how I felt yesterday at the Seacoast Science Center (SSC).
I had the fantastic opportunity to spend the entire day with two tremendous employees of the SSC, Kate Leavitt and Sarah Toupin. The twenty-four lesson, seven-week rocky shore ecosystem unit is complete, but it will not be ready for its debut until a lot of “tuning” has been done. We spent many hours going over the curriculum with a fine-toothed radula to ensure it aligns extremely well with the Next Generation Science Standards. If you don’t know what a radula is, you should look it up!
While examining the curriculum we also did something that I was not planning for but am very excited about – we aligned each lesson to the Ocean Literacy Principles. These seven detailed principles were created by educators from kindergarten through college, researches from multiple ocean science disciplines, education policymakers, science coordinators from departments of education and federal agency representatives involved in education.
The seven principles were developed to promote ocean literacy: the understanding of the ocean’s influence on humans and our influence on the ocean. You can find the seven principles HERE. The correlations between the Next Generation Science Standards and the Ocean Literacy Principles and Concepts can be found HERE.
Besides ensuring that the standards and the lesson content aligned, we also spent a lot of time making necessary revisions to produce a user-friendly document for educators. A major objective of mine in the creation of this unit is to guarantee teachers that this curriculum will be an easy and enjoyable unit to implement in their classrooms.
The “finished” curriculum should be available at some point in April! However, my continued hope will be that this FREE ecosystem unit available to all educators will be a “living” document. As time passes and I receive valuable feedback from educators, necessary improvements will be made to increase the learning experiences of all students participating in the lessons provided by this resource.
A HUGE thanks once again to the Seacoast Science Center for all their collaborative efforts in the development and promotion of this curriculum.
One final question and answer to reflect upon…What did the ocean say to the beachgoers? Nothing…it just waved.
Yesterday was chock full of science! Thanks to Kevin Johnson, the Hillsboro-Deering School District’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Coordinator, I had the privilege of working with his district’s Vertical Science Team during the day. It was a professional development day for their teachers, and I had the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with their educators on how they could assist their elementary colleagues with enhancing science education.
The team was composed of a group of talented and determined individuals – Joseph Donnelly, Brian McGinn, Carolyn Stiles and Sam Brown. Dialogue revolved around adapting science units to correlate with the Next Generation Science Standards, providing elementary teachers with the necessary resources to instruct effectively, and making efforts to ensure adequate time was allotted to meet elementary students’ science needs.
After spending the morning in Hillsboro I then traveled to the school I’ve been teaching at for the last nine years, Kearsarge Regional Elementary School in Bradford. It was the third grade’s annual “24 Hours of Space,” and I wanted to be a part of this incredible, educational tradition. For those elementary educators looking to enhance their science lessons, one piece of advice I can provide is to create a culminating event to celebrate the conclusion of a unit of study. “24 Hours of Space” is a prime example.
What is this event? The third graders at KRES at Bradford learn about outer space, specifically the solar system, for several weeks. The last day of the unit includes the following:
a morning field trip to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
an afternoon at the school full of space-related crafts and games
a time to present projects they created during the unit to their families
a potluck dinner at the school’s cafeteria
a program put on by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS)
a time to stargaze in the school’s playground
a space-related movie in the school’s multi-purpose room
a sleepover in the school’s multi-purpose room
For many children this is one of the most memorable days of their elementary student years – and it is all made possible by the many volunteer hours put in by families and colleagues, the hard work and invested time of the third grade teachers, and the support of the administration.
Lastly, this occasion would not come close to being as meaningful as it is to students if they had not had the significant opportunities to learn about the subject of outer space before participating in their many space-themed events. Why? It is because this culminating event is a chance for students to take what they have learned and apply it to real-life circumstances.
Well done Mrs. Corbyn and Ms. Purington, Principal Spadaro, family volunteers, volunteers of the NHAS, employees of the planetarium and other behind-the-scenes individuals that made this wonderful day a reality for the third graders!
This past week has been a flurry of activity that did not involve interacting with a computer for several hours a day. Don’t get me wrong – I am THOROUGHLY enjoying creating a rocky shore curriculum, but it is also very exciting to get back into the classroom and work toward improving science instruction and performance at the elementary level.
I recently had the privilege of collaborating with Franklin Pierce University’s professors and students. Professor Doug Gilroy asked me to speak to his Scientific Inquiry and Teaching Methods class, and Dr. Jacqueline Kelleher requested that I talk with the university’s Education Club. I also had the wonderful opportunity to discuss science and education with the Education Division Chair, Dr. Alana Mosley.
Last Thursday Professor Gilroy’s class focused on learning about what to expect when teaching science at the elementary level. We covered science instruction, curriculum, professional development and inquiry-based learning. We also looked at data from surveys like the one below that indicate an overwhelming lack of preparedness elementary teachers believe they possess in terms of teaching science at the elementary level. This led to positive conversation on what we can do to change that educational shortcoming.
Yesterday Professor Gilroy’s class conversed about how to create and plan instruction that promotes engagement and inquiry. We reviewed different strategies that invoke inquiry, and we also discussed the biggest challenges educators face when attempting to engage their students. I shared with students my instructional planning method and classroom management fundamentals which can be found on the homepage of this website.
I also had the privilege of meeting with FPU’s Education Club last night. This was a potential lecture that turned into a question and answer session, and I appreciated this time immensely. Students were able to ask me any question they wanted regarding education and I attempted to answer them as comprehensively and honestly as possible, because, I believe, collaboration between school districts and postsecondary schools needs to increase and improve in order to comprehensively prepare new teachers to face the many challenges educators encounter today.
The Education Club asked very thoughtful, challenging and detailed questions on topics ranging from instructing students with diverse learning needs to IEP meetings to collaborating with parents to teacher evaluation processes and performance-based pay. I am hoping I provided adequate answers that will assist their work now as student teachers and beyond into their teaching careers.
One last aspect that needs attention regarding this collaboration with Franklin Pierce University: yesterday morning I was writing back and forth with the Department of Education and a member of the Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board, Casey Sylvain, sixth grade teacher at Grantham Village School. We are working on creating new elementary education science certification standards for New Hampshire educators in efforts to better prepare new teachers and to help guide future science professional development for current elementary educators.
When I explained to the new Director of Science Education, Barbara Hopkins, that I was not going to be able to physically attend the meeting in Concord because I would be working with Franklin Pierce University I discovered an incredible connection: Barbara Hopkins’ alma mater (Class of 1977) is Franklin Pierce University. Also, Barbara Hopkins was the 1998 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical recipient for her project on the development of a scientific instrument sharing system.
The rocky shore curriculum I am developing is nearing its final stages, so I recently met with the Seacoast Science Center (SSC) to see how their institution might be able to assist me at this time. I met with Kate Leavitt, Director of Mission Initiatives, to discuss fine-tuning the curriculum as well as promoting it.
The following ways we are going to collaborate include:
Analyzing the entire curriculum to ensure it is user-friendly and standards-based.
Kate, Sarah Toupin (School and Group Program Manager) and I will take a day to review each lesson of the curriculum to check for any errors to areas in need of improvement. We will also us the EQuIP Rubric to provide evidence on the quality and alignment of the rocky shore science unit with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). You can check this rubric out HERE.
Promoting the curriculum via SSC website.
We will explore various ways the rocky shore curriculum might be able to be accessible via the SSC website so the curriculum can have as much exposure (and get as much use) as possible.
Part of the objective of creating the curriculum is to provide elementary school teachers with a free science resource, and advertising its existence as much as possible is very important.
Possibly offering webinars to educators and/or science workshops using SSC’s facilities.
SSC has the technology to provide quality distance learning opportunities for educators, and they also have a great onsite room that can be used for teacher or student education – the Gregg Interactive Learning Studio (GILS). Doing one or both may be in my future.
Working side-by-side with SSC’s dedicated volunteers.
Helping educators who benefit from SSC’s services be aware of the curriculum’s existence.
Whether by handing out flyers or sending out emails, we are considering ways to promote the rocky shore curriculum to educators who visit the SSC for a variety of educational purposes.
Gathering more image / illustration resources with the much appreciated help of Karen Provazza, SSC’s Director of Marketing.
Karen has been a wonderful, behind-the-scenes help in the development of this curriculum. Several images and illustrations featured in the curriculum will be from the SSC (and were found and virtually delivered by Karen).
I am so thankful for Kate, Sarah and Karen and the entire SSC staff. The rocky shore curriculum would be lacking a great deal without their help, and it will prove to be of high quality thanks to their collaborative efforts. I am also very grateful to their continuous dedication to encouraging ocean literacy and advocating for ocean conservation!
This past Monday was an experience I wish all parents of public school students and their fellow community members could have witnessed. It was a remarkable spectacle of dozens of science educators, curriculum coordinators and administrators from every region of New Hampshire (including a few postsecondary faculty) collaborating enthusiastically and thoughtfully on how to improve science education for all schools in our state. Outside distractions were checked at the door and an analytical and energetic mindset was put forth in the process of determining what was best for New Hampshire educators to meet their students’ science education needs.
Every eight years there is a New Hampshire Science Credentialing Standards review. This is an analysis of the current state standards for credentials in science to determine if necessary changes need to be made. This year is that year, and it just so happens that it coincides with the initiation of the new NH Career & College Ready Science Standards. You can read about the adoption of these new standards HERE.
Considering these new standards are different from our state’s previous K-12 Curriculum Frameworks for Science in that they are designed to address the pedagogical and scientific advances over the past several years, as well as provide deepened inquiry experiences for students at all grade levels, it is imperative that the state standards for credentials be examined and adjusted where appropriate.
What are the state standards for credentials? They are the standards that have been established to determine whether or not a candidate attempting to receive an educator license has the appropriate knowledge and skills. When investigating the state standards for credentials for incoming educators, current educators of Monday’s standards review worked diligently to determine the changes that needed to be made and mindfully considered each word of each modification and addition. This review is necessary in ensuring that the candidates that are being accepted for educator certification are specifically qualified for those teaching positions. Suggested changes could also help to define direction for professional development opportunities for our current science teachers.
One position’s certification standards that are being closely examined are that of the elementary teacher. Although the elementary education certification requirements are not up for review this year, they were still meticulously inspected by a subcommittee of committed elementary educators. This was done so that a full review of all science involved teaching credentials could be accomplished and with the active engagement of experts at all primary, elementary and secondary levels.
The subcommittee that I had the privilege to be a part of looked at the current certification standards as well as the possibility of creating the standards for an elementary science specialist certification. This examination was done in order to take the first steps toward adjusting the credentialing standards so that new elementary educators are more prepared to teach science (as college education programs must also adjust to meet the preparation requirements set forth by the state) at the elementary level. The potential proposal of an elementary science specialist position would be another strong effort toward bolstering science education in our state.
Monday’s Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board (led by Barbara Hopkins, our state’s new Director of Science Education, and William Ross, Education Consultant of NH’s Department of Education) took into account several aspects before making any suggestion of change, including the different challenges each region of New Hampshire faces, as well as the various compositions of schools and districts throughout the state. There are still two more meetings scheduled and a lot of collaboration in between before this committee completes their recommendations to the Professional Standards Board, who in turn review and recommend to the NH State Board of Education for approval. Still, this first meeting was a tremendous first step toward strengthening NH’s science credentialing standards and securing a stronger science education future for our children.