It is hard to believe that a year ago I was preparing for the end of the school year and getting ready to embark on my sabbatical journey. Now there are only a couple months left in my sabbatical year and time seems to be washing away faster than the tides!
The Last Month:
- April 14th was the “release date” if you will of the marine science unit I created collaboratively with the NH Sea Grant, Seacoast Science Center, illustrator Adam Kelley, Hobblebush Design and the New England Aquarium – located on the homepage of engageyourstudents.org.
- Carol Steingart, a local marine science educator and former Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) president, promoted the curriculum at a National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Los Angeles, California in April.
- More recently I had the privilege of promoting this curriculum at the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association (NHSTA) Spring Conference.
The Next Two Months:
- I will be seeking out New Hampshire educators who are willing to pilot this curriculum so that I can take their feedback and build upon and refine the curriculum.
- Next week I will be teaching a couple of lessons from the curriculum to students at the Andover Elementary Middle School.
- I will be traveling with docents from the UNH SeaTrek Programs to schools around the state in order to learn from them and promote the curriculum.
- The Seacoast Science Center (SSC) and I will be collaborating to create a workshop or two centered around the curriculum I am offering, as well as planning ways to promote the curriculum – including having it available on their website.
- I will be teaching a few summer institute classes at New England College and Keene State College in late June.
- The Kearsarge Regional School District’s Middle School has asked me to present at their STEM Camp this July and I was more than willing to participate!
- I will be presenting a workshop at the New England Aquarium on July 30th.
I am so grateful for all of the people who have encouraged and supported me throughout this sabbatical. I know it is not over yet, but as I near the finish line I can’t help but begin to lament how quickly it has passed, and at the same time reflect on how thankful I have been for this amazing opportunity.
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!
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.
Corrine Steever, NEAQ Teacher Services Supervisor
I have had the opportunity to visit the New England Aquarium several times. None were anything like the experience I had yesterday, however. Yesterday I had the pleasure of not only being an observer of a fantastic organization but a collaborator, as I met with Corrine Steever, Teacher Services Supervisor at the New England Aquarium.
Corrine has supported my project to advance science education at the elementary level, as well as my efforts to create a free rocky shore ecosystem for curriculum available for teachers and students. Her assistance for the past two years in advocating for my sabbatical application was extremely appreciated and needed.
NEAQ’s Teacher Resource Center Staff
In our meeting Corrine agreed to help with revising and editing the rocky shore curriculum. She also provided me with a lot of helpful ideas of how to proceed with organizing the curriculum for educators. The New England Aquarium’s teacher resource center will also be a valuable resource – just as it has been to numerous educators and students for several years.
At the end of Corrine’s letter of support for my sabbatical application process, she stated “Any professional development that will help raise teacher and student knowledge about the Oceans benefits all by allowing a deeper understanding of how to protect the planet.” And this is perhaps the most important aspect of this project – education that will improve the health of our planet. The New England Aquarium will certainly prove to be an invaluable collaborator for this endeavor.
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!
Why the rocky shore? Why learn about the rocky shore? Why teach about the rocky shore? Why dedicate an entire year to creating and distributing a curriculum on the rocky shore? These are questions I have been asked and hope to answer in this succinct article.
Let me first say this: I chose to invest numerous hours after school, during my kids’ practices, after my kids’ bedtimes, on weekends and during holidays for two years to receive the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical. I did this because I felt very strongly that elementary school teachers need more 1) science curriculum, 2) science professional development, and 3) science instruction at the collegiate level. I also did this because I felt very strongly that elementary school students need improved science instruction and curriculum.
One way I felt I could assist elementary science educators in New Hampshire and beyond was by creating a quality curriculum at an excellent price (free). I initially chose the rocky shore because I am knowledgeable about the rocky shore, I love to teach about the rocky shore, and my students have always loved learning about the rocky shore. And one more thing: almost every grade in elementary school learns about ecosystems.
To be honest, there are a plethora (wanted to fit that word in somewhere) of reasons why I chose the rocky shore, and even more reasons as to why the rocky shore should be taught to all New Hampshire schoolchildren. But for sake of time, I have compartmentalized all of these reasons into three large categories:
- Significance – the rocky shore is an extremely important ecosystem. The rocky shore is rich with animal life and plant life that impacts mankind in major ways. Since this is supposed to be a succinct article I’ll be brief: we eat lots of mollusks, crustaceans and fish. We also consume a lot of seaweed (i.e. ice cream), and use it in many ways, too (i.e. lotion). Oh, and are you concerned about the rainforest? Just remember that phytoplankton produces at least 50% of our oxygen!
- Relevance – the rocky shore is an ecosystem in New Hampshire. It is a part of our state, which means we are responsible for it. The rocky shore is where the land meets the sea, which means it is where the people meet the sea. It is an ecosystem that is highly susceptible to human contact, and since it is so important to us (above) we should definitely be treating it right. And out-of-sight may mean out-of-mind, but it certainly doesn’t mean out-of-contact when it comes to the watershed. Know of a river near you, New Hampshirite? Yep, that eventually drains into the rocky shore!
- Abundance – the rocky shore is an educational paradise. Here is an incomplete list of a vast quantity of valuable learning topics the rocky shore ecosystem holds: interdependence, competition, adaptation, community, conservation, short term & long term changes, invasive species, photosynthesis, predator-prey relationships and more. On top of that, the rocky shore is an engaging environment that is accessible to many, so many students not only have the opportunity to learn facts, but to observe facts as well. And if not, programs like the UNH Marine Docent Program can help.
That is why I chose the rocky shore in a nutshell (seashell).
Choosing a curriculum is kind of like choosing between a cat and a dog. You need to consider the following:
- What features does each one possess that are beneficial?
- What features does each one possess that are drawbacks?
- Which one will meet the specific family’s (school’s) needs?
- Which one will be productive for both parent (teacher) and child (student)?
- Which one will be both productive and affordable?
Recently I’ve felt like I’m in similar “shoes” as Angela from The Office. For those who are not familiar with this character, Angela adored her cat Sprinkles – so much so that she went to great lengths to keep it alive. We weighed the above options because our children have been clamoring for a pet. We came to the conclusion that a couple of kittens would be the best option for our family at this time. But after a few weeks one kitten came down with a nasty fever – complete with kitty boogers. I didn’t even know kitty boogers were a thing! The other feline came down with something even worse – ringworm. Definitely gross.
So now our two kittens are quarantined, while I have taken on the role of Angela, giving both cats ringworm medication once a day, and one cat amoxicillin twice a day. This is going to go on for the next three weeks at least! But do we feel like we have made the wrong decision? No, because we considered the five options above. Despite our best intentions and those fur balls being quite adorable, unforeseen circumstances happen.
I have been on several committees that have been a part of piloting and choosing different types of curriculum for our district. Now I’m dealing with a different kind of animal (pun intended) – I’m making a curriculum.
Thankfully I have several talented professional experts assisting me with this project, including Mark Wiley, Assistant Director of Marine Education at the University of New Hampshire. I recently met with Mark at his office in Lee, New Hampshire, and I am extremely thankful for his foresight and expertise. He provided me with a number of valuable resources and ideas, and gave me direction of how to develop the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum.
Mark equipped me with a planning model that I can use when designing and revising lessons. It was a “planning cycle” of four categories that all need to be seriously addressed when creating a curriculum: 1) content standard, 2) performance standard, 3) pedagogy / resources, and 4) assessment and evaluation. This model, along with his suggestion of creating a document that provides teachers with options of how to sequence activities will be quite beneficial to the preparation of the curriculum. His vast marine knowledge will be of continuous assistance to this project.
So, as I continue to coat pills with soft salmon Meow Mix treats and feed them to our kittens, I will also work diligently to create a curriculum that will hopefully be very beneficial to both students and teachers and meet many classrooms’ needs. I will do my best to ensure it benefits our state’s precious rocky shore ecosystem as well.