Rocky Shore Curriculum

Where Is It?

Where It Is


The Rocky Shore Marine Science Curriculum that I wrote last year in collaboration with the Seacoast Science Center and the New Hampshire Sea Grant is starting to go places!  Just recently it made itself home in the teacher resource center of the New England Aquarium.  It is also available at the Seacoast Science Center, and at the Seacoast Science Center’s website.


It can also be found at my Engage Your Students website and it has been accessed by several people from many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, China, and more!

Where It Is Going

The curriculum will soon be flying to Atlanta, Georgia with Carol Steingart of Coast Encounters.  Atlanta is hosting this year’s National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) “Share-A-Thon,” and I am so appreciative of Carol’s desire to share it with science teachers from acround the country!

I have thankfully had several requests for hard copies of the curriculum and will be snail-mailing them shortly.  Many New Hampshire schools have recently requested them, including East Kingston Elementary School, Saint Mary Academy, North Hampton Elementary School, and Hillsboro-Deering Elementary school.  Eliot Elementary School in Maine will also be getting a hard copy soon!

Image result for casco bay estuary partnership

The Casco Bay Estuary Partnership just recently contacted me as they have tremendous interest in the curriculum.  The tentative plan is share my curriculum with educators at the Brunswick High School on August 4th.  The curriculum will be available to participants during this summer professional development opportunity.

Where I Hope It Will Go

In efforts to spread the use of this curriculum, I am going to be contacting several aquariums and science centers on the Atlantic coast in hopes that they might house a copy or two of the curriculum at their facility.  I am hoping to have the curriculum available on multiple websites as well.

I have recently set up a Twitter account to spread the word of this curriculum, as well as to post topics about science at the elementary level, about inquiry-based instruction, and other topics revolving around elementary education and marine science.

Please consider helping me spread the word of this curriculum – the purpose behind its development was to offer a free resource to elementary teachers, and my hope is that it will be utilized by many educators and students across our state, region, and beyond!

Collaboration, Rocky Shore Curriculum

Rocky Shore Curriculum Release Date – Friday, April 14th!

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.

Image result for hobblebush design

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
Collaboration, Rocky Shore Curriculum

Tuning the Unit – The Rocky Shore Ecosystem Curriculum is Almost Ready for Instruction!

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
Collaboration, Rocky Shore Curriculum

Collaborating with the SSC Using the NGSS (and more)!

img_4898The 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.
  • 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!

Collaboration, Sabbatical

Behind-the-Scenes: The Unseen Action

craftsMany of my friends who are not teachers often don’t know how to approach the “how is work going” conversation.  They have no clue what elementary teachers do for the most part, just as I have no idea what many of my friends actually do all day.  Assumptions abound, however, regarding the responsibilities of elementary educators – such as the presumption that we are continuously preparing arts and crafts projects.  And my favorite conversation go-to: “You have a vacation coming up, right?”  Right…

There are NUMEROUS behind-the-scene responsibilities of teachers many are not aware of, and I am hoping some big-wig director decides to create a documentary on the day in the life of a teacher someday to inform the unaware.  Until that day, friends, you’ll just have to believe me – professional educators do A LOT more than you might think.

Now on to the objective of this post – to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of my project that are currently happening:

  • Illustrator Adam Kelley is currently working on the cover page of the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum (the first draft is the featured image of this blog post).
  • Kirsty Walker, president of Hobblebush Design is currently working on formatting the curriculum.
  • Mark Wiley, Assistant Director of Marine Education at UNH is reviewing and revising the curriculum.
  • Kate Leavitt, Director of Mission Initiatives at the Seacoast Science Center and the education team at the SSC is reviewing and revising the curriculum.
  • Corrine Steever, Teacher Services Supervisor at the New England Aquarium is reviewing and revising the curriculum.
  • Pam Castor and Wendy Corbyn, elementary educators from KRES at Bradford, are going to be reviewing and providing feedback on the curriculum.
  • Plymouth State University – I am meeting with student teachers for the third time next week to assist them with science planning and instruction.
  • Keene State College – currently in discussions of how I can assist their student teachers.
  • Franklin Pierce College – currently in discussions of how I can assist their student teachers.
  • New England College – currently preparing a 2017 summer institute course.
  • Hillsboro-Deering School District – in a couple of weeks we are meeting to discuss how I might assist their educators and students.
  • Hopkinton School District – currently in discussions of how I can assist their educators and students.
  • Last but not least…I’m currently working on my twelfth lesson out of twenty-five lessons for the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum I am developing for New Hampshire educators and beyond.

That’s what is currently going on behind-the-scenes with my project, in a “seashell.”

“The Rocky Seashore” by my son, Gabe
Collaboration, Curriculum, Rocky Shore Curriculum

The Beginning Has Arrived: Lesson One


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”:

Collaboration, Rocky Shore Curriculum

The Seacoast Science Center: Learning Science by Doing Science

img_1019Studying 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.