“Imagine visiting the rocky shore off the coast of New Hampshire during low tide and then mysteriously shrinking to a minuscule height of two inches.”
When posing fantastical situations like this one to a classroom full of third graders, the creative and analytical juices start to flow with incredible force. Imaginative scenarios can excite and engage students, creating a thirst for knowledge and sparking innovative ideas.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting the third grade classrooms of Andover Elementary Middle School in Andover, New Hampshire. I presented the storyline above (referencing Ms. Frizzle and her magic bus), and then I posed the following question: What dangers would you face? The answers that followed either reinforced prior knowledge about the rocky shore, or led to an understanding of the type of chaotic environment rocky shore organisms face every day.
After our brief discussion of rocky shore challenges, I read a fabulous book, “Between the Tides” by Fran Hodgkins. This non-fiction book for children does an excellent job of describing several rocky shore creatures and the many characteristics they have that enable them to survive their ecosystem. It has beautiful illustrations, fantastic yet simple vocabulary, and its length is perfect to be an entertaining read-aloud book.
With curiosity sparked and knowledge disseminated via Hodgkins’ story, it was time to guide students in what has become one of my favorite activities for elementary students (Lesson 7 & Lesson 19). Students are asked to use their prior knowledge and ingenuity to “create a critter” which would be able to survive the rocky shore. This is a life science meets engineering science lesson that can also double as a formative assessment. Students are only provided with five index cards, scissors and Scotch tape for their creation.
It is always a wonder to me to see what young minds can come up with in a short amount of time with short notice of their create-a-critter challenge. The bright and enthusiastic Andover students came up with a variety of incredible creations including combinations of actual rocky shore animals – and one student had the impressive notion of using the tape as an actual sticking agent to help its critter to hold on tight to the rocks! Everything the students built, in one way or another, reflected their understanding of both the dangers of the rocky shore, and the adaptations animals need to survive this harsh environment.
THANK YOU Mr. Hubbard and Mrs. Peters allowing me to come and visit your classrooms for an afternoon. It was a pleasure and an honor to be able to spend time with your awesome and intelligent students!
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!
Carol Steingart, GOMMEA @ 2017 NSTA Conference
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.
Featured Article Image by Adam Kelley
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!
New Hampshire educators have an incredibly valuable resource right at their fingertips. It is unknown to some, but should be known to all. Why? Because it provides quality programs led by experienced and passionate educators at very reasonable costs. These programs consist of a wide range of topics designed for all age levels – kindergarten through adults. They provide presentations and hands-on activities that combine to produce meaningful educational experiences. AND, to top it all off, this resource comes to you!
What is this “sounds too good to be true” resource? The University of New Hampshire Marine Docent Program. I know firsthand how great these educational programs can be because our school has hosted their programs and educators for the last decade. Check out all they have to offer HERE!
A significant sign of a worthwhile educational institution is one that continuously seeks to improve and adapt to the needs of today’s students and teachers – the UNH Marine Docent Program is one such institution. I recently had the pleasure of being part of a focus group of teachers who have utilized the docent programs in and outside of our classrooms. The purpose of our focus group was to provide the docents with feedback regarding the strengths of their program, and what steps we felt they could take to enhance their lessons even more.
The UNH Marine Docent Program’s initiative to improve has three main objectives: 1) to provide programs that utilize best practices for student learning, 2) provide programs that align with the Next Generation Science Standards, and 3) provide avenues for effective integration into the teacher’s curriculum.
I can assure you that with this new initiative taking place, the UNH Marine Docent Programs will transform from already “great” to “exceptional.” If you are a NH educator, definitely do yourself a favor and take advantage of one of these programs as soon as possible.
Good morning! I am writing a very brief blog post this morning to celebrate three specific numbers associated with my sabbatical project:
1,000 – Engageyourstudents.org, the website I have created to track the progress of my project’s objectives and to be a home to the complete and published rocky shore curriculum has already reached 1,000 hits!
4 – This morning I “googled” the following words: rocky shore curriculum. Engageyourstudents.org came up fourth in a list of 117,000 results!
1 – Although not yet complete, the Rocky Shore Marine Science Curriculum for elementary educators has one complete cover page – special thanks to Adam Kelley (illustrator) and Kirsty Walker (designer) for creating this incredible cover!
Although I have many more lessons to write, many more schools to visit, and many more objectives to carry out before my sabbatical is through, I find it extremely important to recognize and be thankful for each accomplishment, big or small.
It can be difficult to work hard on anything when you can’t visually see the results of your labor. As much joy as I have had in the pursuit of creating a curriculum for New Hampshire educators and their students, it has been no easy task to work for hours and hours and see little development. However, the anticipation of the outcome makes tasks worthwhile, no matter how arduous or tedious they can be.
And the first outcome of many was emailed to me this afternoon by Kirsty Walker of Hobblebush Design – the first draft of the first lesson of the curriculum…woo hoo! Although it is only a draft, and will receive some illustrative upgrades and perhaps more tweaking, it was a beautiful sight.
I am thrilled that the creation of this curriculum is underway, and I am extremely thankful for the time and effort Mark Wiley of UNH, Kate Leavitt of the Seacoast Science Center, and Kirsty Walker of Hobblebush have put into this project.
I am currently working on lesson four of this rocky shore curriculum, and have many more to go, but couldn’t wait to share a sample of what has been made and what is to come with all of you.
Thank YOU for taking the time to read this, and for your support and encouragement.
Enjoy the “sneak peek”:
Studying ecosystems is a major component of elementary science. Ecosystem education is recommended for nearly every primary grade in both the Science Literacy New Hampshire Curriculum Frameworks and the Next Generation Science Standards. Learning about ecosystems is not only a high interest topic of life sciences among young students – it also provides them with a stimulating and illuminating opportunity to learn science by doing science depending on where they live. For a vast majority of New Hampshire students, the rocky shore ecosystem is an accessible learning laboratory.
Cindy VanHooyDonk & Megan Smith
This week I had a chance to shadow one of the Seacoast Science Center’s naturalists while she facilitated a classroom visit to the rocky shore. It was a gorgeous Thursday morning with sunny skies, warm waters and plenty of space to explore the ecosystem’s diverse organisms and environmental elements. To my excited surprise, the time slot I chose to observe belonged to Sutton Central Elementary School – one of the four elementary schools in my own district!
Kelly Tivnan, SSC Naturalist
The Seacoast Science Center’s naturalist that allowed me to pester her with questions and tag alongside her all morning was Kelly Tivnan. Ms. Tivnan is a soft-spoken yet spirited individual who decided to work for the SSC because of her love of the seacoast, joy in teaching, and dedication to education and the conservation of our state’s rocky shore. You can tell she adores children and highly values the responsibility of providing valuable learning experiences for visiting schools. This is reflected not only in her work but also in her life as a proud mother of four and a new member of the Middleton, NH school board.
Ms. Tivnan’s responsibilities can be divided into three major categories: 1) educate students about the rocky shore’s dynamic community, 2) facilitate on-site student investigations of the rocky shore and 3) field and answer questions from students. I am thankful for her hard-working efforts in her local community and at the SSC, and am grateful that I had the chance to shadow her morning session with Sutton Central.
Science class at the rocky shore is an experience that is not only memorable, but as I have mentioned before in my blog, an educational paradise. The ability to be involved with inquiry-based learning at one of the world’s most interesting and diverse ecosystems – one that is quite perilous for its inhabitants and constantly changing – is an extremely valuable endeavor. I was very appreciative once more of my time at the rocky shore and being able to spend it with Ms. Smith’s fantastic third grade class! It was wonderful to be able to watch her students take their content knowledge from the classroom and apply and refine their science inquiry skills at the rocky shore…it was learning science by doing science at its best.
If you hike or even take brief strolls in New England’s deciduous forest, you have definitely walked by a hobblebush. This plant is humble and common, yet in May produces beautiful bright white blossoms. Its leaves also change color throughout the year, from a brilliant green in the spring to a reddish-purple in autumn. The publishing company Hobblebush Books and Hobblebush Design out of Brookline, New Hampshire identifies well with its name – it is a humble business that could be easily missed, but is accurately recognized as truly amazing when discovered.
The road to Hobblebush
When searching for a design company for the creation of the rocky shore curriculum, I was reading Poetry Showcase: an anthology of New Hampshire poets edited by our state poet laureate, Alice B. Fogel. Admiring the book design at the same time I was enjoying the content, I discovered it was published by Hobblebush Books. A few emails and one meeting in person later, this talented independent press agreed to help me create a rocky shore curriculum that we hope will assist educators and students throughout the state and beyond!
Kirsty Walker, President of Hobblebush Books & Design
Today I visited Kirsty Walker, president of Hobblebush Books and Design, to discuss the layout and process of creating the curriculum. Kirsty is a great and talented individual to work with, and I am extremely happy that she will be in charge of the design of the curriculum. She asked me my expectations of when I wanted to see the curriculum completed, and I was hesitant to answer as I was not sure if my expectations were unreasonable. I suggested that it would be great to reflect on Christmas morning that the curriculum part of my sabbatical was completed, and thankfully she was confident that it was a reasonable request!
Here is an outline of what we will be doing over the next few months:
- I will be typing up lessons, one at a time, and sending them to Kirsty for editing and design purposes.
- I will be sharing my lessons with the New Hampshire Sea Grant program, the Seacoast Science Center, and the New England Aquarium to help with revisions and editing.
- I will be gathering images from both Adam Kelley, the main illustrator for this project, as well as from the Seacoast Science Center.
- Kirsty will be working on designing all the lessons together along with other complimentary pages, and creating one pdf file with all the content, as well as individual pdf files for each lesson.
I am so thankful for Hobblebush Design, who is “dedicated to publishing books that feature a unique voice and make a difference.” When all is said and done, I am confident that this curriculum will make a difference, and with Hobblebush’s touch, will be unique, professional, and beautiful.
For the past two years, one of the most supportive and influential collaborators in the formation of my sabbatical project has been the Seacoast Science Center (SSC). Staff members from this amazing organization go full tilt when it comes to educating others about the ocean’s ecosystems and their conservation – and they are taking this energy and infusing it into the development of our rocky shore curriculum for New Hampshire educators and their students.
Here is a brief overview of the Seacoast Science Center and their mission:
- They are a non-profit marine science education organization located at Odiorne State Park in Rye, New Hampshire.
- Their facility houses interactive and educational exhibits for all ages.
- They provide several programs on marine education on a variety of subjects for a variety of age groups.
- They are home to the New Hampshire’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team – a group of dedicated individuals responding to all reports of live and deceased marine mammals in NH’s coastal region.
The three individuals who are helping me most on this project so far have been Kate Leavitt (Director of Mission Initiatives – on left), Sarah Toupin (School and Group Program Manager – on right), and Perrin Chick (former Education Director). Each of these passionate educators has already provided a tremendous amount of ideas, insights and expertise in both the development of my project and in the growth of my own knowledge and enthusiasm. I am very much looking forward to collaborating with them throughout this sabbatical year.
Here are the main ways we are going to be working together:
- Kate and Sarah have agreed to help me with the creation of this curriculum – providing feedback in the drafting, revising and editing of this project.
- The SSC has agreed to provide images and illustrations to increase the educational and visual value of the curriculum.
- The SSC is willing to provide me with occasional office space during the duration of my sabbatical.
- The SSC is going to provide me with opportunities to shadow their naturalists during their educational programs.
- The SSC provides several learning events that I will take advantage of, including this year’s BioBlitz.
The Seacoast Science Center and its dedicated staff is a blazing lighthouse of marine education to our region’s residents and tourists. They provide innumerable amounts of expertise, skills, programs and compassion to those interested in learning about marine wildlife and their habitat. With the smallest amount of coastline, NH’s residents need to learn about the value and importance of their rocky shore and how they can be productive stewards. I am extremely excited and thankful to be working with the SSC and its staff, and will continue to provide updates on our collaborative efforts!