Phytoplankton in Your Classroom

Phytoplankton produce half of the oxygen we breathe and are the base of the ocean food web! So they provide a great topic for lessons about the oceans.

In the Xu et al. (2011) paper , researchers determined that it was the amount of light and nutrients that determined when and where we observe large blooms of phytoplankton from North Carolina up to Massachusetts (see the What’s Hot in Ocean Sciences article in the Winter 2011 newsletter for a summary of the paper or see below for a copy of the paper).

But what does that mean for your students? How can you incorporate some of this research into your classroom? Below I have developed a way to bring up these topics (Introducing these Topics) and then provided a list of multiple phytoplankton lesson plans that you can use with your students (Phytoplankton Lesson Plans).

Introducing these Topics

Take time to talk with your students about why it is important for phytoplankton to “stay” near the surface sunlight for photosynthesis. Help your students understand that the two things that phytoplankton, like all plants, need to survive are: energy from the sun and nutrients. Help the students understand that the need for sunlight and nutrients explains our observations of varying amounts of phytoplankton in different parts of the ocean and at different times of year.

First talk about the energy from the sun, ask the students if light from the sun penetrates everywhere equally in the ocean (no, only in the photic zone). Then ask the students if sunlight penetrates into the ocean to the same depth every day (no, if it is stormy). Ask the students if they think these two factors effect where and when phytoplankton bloom (yes). Then you can use a map of the Atlantic Ocean to show students one of the findings from the Xu et al. (2011) paper: that there are blooms in phytoplankton biomass off of the east coast in the spring (when it is sunnier than the winter).

Next talk with your students about nutrients. As organisms (e.g., phytoplankton, zooplankton, fishes) die in the ocean they often sink to the seafloor where they are decomposed into nutrients. This process results in a pool of nutrients near the seafloor. Use questions about what the students know about plankton sinking to help them realize that there would be a build up of nutrients at the bottom of the water column (the pool of nutrients). The nutrients do not float to the surface on their own, but rather are brought to the surface when the water column is mixed (meaning water at the surface mixes with water near the seafloor). Two main processes can drive this mixing: 1) the cooling of sea surface temperatures to temperatures more similar to the bottom waters (when there is a large difference in temperature this creates a thermocline in the water column and water of different temperatures “act” like two separate water bodies, aka no mixing) and 2) storms over the ocean churn up the water at the surface, which results in mixing of the water throughout the water column. The Xu et al. (2011) paper demonstrated that in the fall/winter seasons off the east coast both of these processes occur (cooling of sea surface temperatures and increased storm frequencies). Therefore, there is an increase in nutrients at the surface and thus an increase in the phytoplankton biomass at the surface.

• Map of Atlantic Ocean
• Global maps of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll from July 2002 to Oct 2011 from the NASA Earth Observatory (
• Maps of Pacific Ocean in May and November from the NASA Earth Observatory- Differences from Season to Season (

Phytoplankton Lesson Plans

1. THE GREAT PLANKTON RACE – phytoplankton diversity and sinking adaptations (Marine Activities Resources & Education (MARE), Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley,
2. THE GULF STREAM VOYAGE/BIOLOGY – changes in phytoplankton concentrations over space and time from satellite images (Stevens Institute of Technology, Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) 2004,
3. WHAT COLOR IS THE OCEAN: AND WHY DO YOU NEED A SATELLITE TO TELL YOU? – concentrations of phytoplankton and satellite imagery of oceans from space (SeaWiFS, and other resources at the SeaWiFS Teacher Resources website:
4. OCEAN PRODUCTIVITY ACTIVITY – variation of phytoplankton in space (University of Rhode Island,
5. WHEN IS DINNER SERVED? PREDICTING THE SPRING PHYTOPLANKTON BLOOM IN THE GULF OF MAINE– using satellite data to make predictions about phytoplankton in space and time (Earth Exploration Toolbook,
6. MEADOWS IN THE SEA – phytoplankton photosynthesis, food webs, phytoplankton diversity (“Whales in the Classroom: Oceanography”, Lawrence Wade, Singing Rock Press, Minnetonka, MN, 2005)
7. UPWELLING: THE UNDERWATER ELEVATOR – geology and geography that results in upwelling/plankton blooms, annual variation in phytoplankton (“Whales in the Classroom: Oceanography”, Lawrence Wade, Singing Rock Press, Minnetonka, MN, 2005)


Scientific Investigations: tips to do them, how to think like a scientists, and questions for the MARE Community

Science is both a body of knowledge about the world we live in and the processes used to understand that world. The trick is to help students learn both the content and the process, and student-directed scientific investigations can help!

First, scientific investigations involve more than just experiments (manipulating some factor in a system in order to see how that affects the outcome) because for many ideas experiments are impossible, inappropriate, or only part of the picture. Instead scientific investigations are often centered on making observations and comparisons. Therefore, there are many ways that scientific investigations can be incorporated into your classroom.

Tips about Scientific Investigations:

1. Remember there are no set steps or order of activities that define “good science.”
2. The question being investigated should 1) be connected to scientific concepts and methods and 2) provide opportunities for students to connect their knowledge, experience, and interests with the subject.
3. Effective investigations should be organized, structured activities that guide students in using scientific methods to work on meaningful problems.
4. Investigations typically unfold over weeks to months.
5. Use effective questions to subtly guide students toward certain insights and self-reflection about their previous and acquired knowledge throughout the investigation.
6. Try to encourage ideas to flow freely, students to articulate their “first draft thinking” and then revisit the ideas later in their investigation, and students to think critically about their classmates’ ideas.
7. The process of science is iterative, any point in the process leads to many possible next steps (known or unknown), and science lacks tidy endpoints.
8. Investigations generate raw data but those data must be analyzed and interpreted to develop a scientific argument about the investigation/question.

Thinking Like a Scientist:

A key part of a scientific investigation in the classroom is teaching the students how to think and act like scientists. The “Understanding Science: How Science Really Works” website ( created by the University of California – Berkeley has some great suggestions of what it looks like for students to be scientists:
1. Question what they observe. First they should ask general questions, and then limit the arena they explore by defining the problem to develop a question that can drive their investigation.
2. Investigate further. They should research what is currently known about the topic/question.
3. Articulate their expectations of the results. They should be skeptical and try to refute their own ideas of what will happen.
4. Seek out more evidence and make observations. They should choose a way to investigate their question, gather or create the materials, and collect the data.
5. Be open-minded. They should examine the raw data and process/analyze the data and change their mind if the evidence warrants it.
6. Think creatively. They should try to come up with alternate explanations for what they observe and reflect on their findings by thinking about what the results mean.
7. Communicate with others. They should talk with others about their ideas, questions, expectations, methods, raw data, analyzed data, and results (aka at many points during the investigation).

Also, on the “Understanding Science: How Science Really Works” website there are Teaching Resources broken out by grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, 13-16). The resources range from tips & strategies to lesson plans to educational research. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Questions for the MARE community:

1. What do scientific investigations look like in your classroom?
2. What are some techniques that you use to help students to act and think like scientists?
3. What helps you direct scientific investigations?
4. What hinders you from directing scientific investigations?
5. What was your favorite scientific investigation you have done with your students?

Let us know what you think…

* This year at Rutgers Ocean Days, we are asking MARE classrooms/clubs to complete a marine or aquatic related science investigation. For more information visit


What does MARE look like for you?

I am asking this question for all of you to give a detailed summary of what your MARE programs look like as of the first day of December. We have all discussed our ideas at our October meeting and I’d just like everyone to chime in on how the MARE program is going in your individual scenarios. At our October meeting we learned that MARE has taken on very diverse formats across the state of NJ. I feel that there are no “wrong ways” to incorporate the MARE topics into our schools. I would however like to show the MARE and Ocean Science community just how diverse our program has become. I know that in many of your schools, due to budgetary considerations, the MARE program has taken the form of an informal club. But let’s reflect and be specific about what that looks like because I know that there are some great things going on! So, if all of you would please give us a synopsis of what the MARE program looks like in your school, I’m sure that we could all benefit from the discussion!



Props for MARE Participants!

I was browsing through the October 30 issue of The Lacey-Barnegat Times and was excited to see 2010 MARE Summer Institute participant Gina Verderosa featured in an article!  Gina received at $2,500 Go Green grant from the Ocean First Foundation to implement a variety of environmentally themed projects at the Joseph T. Donahue School in Barnegat, NJ.  The grant money will be used to fund the school’s annual participation in the National Green Week in February.  Each grade level will have an integral part in the program.  Fourth and fifth grade students in the MARE Club will be working on landscaping around the school, managing a composting bin with the younger students in grades K-3 and acting as role-model “green-keepers” for the entire school population.  Gina is advising the MARE club with fellow staff member Jane Goddard.   Gina has plans to involve the whole school in going green with projects for each grade level:

  • Kindergarten will create and care for an indoor garden using recylced materials and producing plants for Mother’s Day!
  • First grade will recycle bottle caps and facilitate awareness that they are not recycled by township recycling programs.
  • Second grade classes will start with the compost bin and maintain it daily to eventually produce soil for the gardens.
  • Third grade classes will start an outdoor garden to beautify the school landscape.
  • Fourth grade students will organize a campaign to increase the amount of paper, plastic, cans and bottles that is recycled in the school. 
  • Fifth grade classes will conduct energy audits and monitor recycling efforts at the school. They will analyze data and become the “report card” for the program.

BRAVO Barnegat crew!!! We are so proud of our MARE grads!

Check out your November 2010 issue of The New Jersey Education Association Reporter, in the Classroom Close up NJ section, you will see Rob Causton’s  Oxford Central School as one of the programs receiving NJEA Frederick L. Hipp Foundation for Excellence in Education funding for their Oceans and Estuaries program.  Seventh graders at the Oxford Central School traveled to Long Beach Island for a three-day camping and ocean/estuaries study.  Host Wendell Steinhauer joined the students at the Coast Guard Station on LBI and at the Viking Village commercial fishing port.   Thumbs up Oxford Central!  Thank you for spreading our love of ocean science with your students!


How does MARE fit with the NJCCC STANDARDS?

The honest answer is easily and everywhere!  The MARE activities span multiple disciplines including components of writing, reading, art, cooperative learning, math, history, physical education and of course Science!  These same activities often spark extension lessons in music, interpersonal skills, vocabulary and spelling, and theater.

For example, our second grade classes study The Sandy Beach in the MARE curriculum.  Since we have a bird’s eye view of Old Barney from our shores, the students were very interested in the lighthouse.  We often visit the sandy beach at Island Beach State Park or Long Beach Island, NJ as part of our unit.  We also contacted the wonderful people at the NJ Lighthouse Society for a school visitation.  Now, how did we meet our CCCStandards?

We started with the principles of Understanding By Design (UBD) and identified the “big ideas” that we wanted our students to understand from the lessons. For example, we wanted our students to understand that lighthouses serve a purpose and that purpose is navigation assistance for marine travel.  We also wanted the students to understand that lighthouse design follows a few common traits including shape, color and lense choice.  Lastly, we wanted the students to understand that lighthouses have both an impact and play an integral part in the sandy beach habitats where they are located.  Now, you may be thinking that we are straying very far from the content standards here….. but just wait…. it all comes together!  Keep an open mind and know that you can address your CCCStandards easily with this or ANY MARE activity.

Once our “big ideas” or key concepts were identified, we then chose our activities to accomplish these concepts.  We matched each activity with cross-curricular connections and with the Content Standards for our grade level. For this example, grades 1 to 2 are the target audiences, but it is adaptable for various grade levels.   Below are three of the eight activities we chose and how they fit into the Content Standards.

Activity MARE Activity NJCCCS Cross-Curricular Connection
Students will measure (ft.) and draw Barnegat Lighthouse on the playground using chalk.
  • 4.1 Number Sense
  • 4.2 Geometry/Measurement
  • 1.1 Creative Art
  • Math
  • Art
  • Sand sampling near lighthouse
  • Sand sample examination using microscopes.
  • Discussion
  • Record observations in journal
  • Navajo sand art
Sand on Stage
  • 5.8 Earth materials5.1 Science Practices(observe and record)
  • 5.6 Structure and Prop. Of Matter
  • 3.3 Questioning & Discussion
  • 3.2 Writing
  • 1.2 Art History
  • Language Arts
  • Art
  • Social Studies
  • Bio blitz, identification and counting of plant and animal life at Barn.
  • Lighthouse State Park habitat, record using flip video, journals,drawings, etc.
  • MARE Seashore Charades will be used to have the students kinesthetically act out the adaptations of various organisms in the habitat both at high and low tides.
Seashore Charades
  • 1.3 Performing Arts5.1 Science Practices(active investigation)
  • 5.3 Life Science
  • (various principles)
  • 3.2 Writing
  • 3.3 Speaking
  • 8.1 Technology
  • 4.4 Data analysis
  • Art
  • Technology
  • Language Arts
  • Interpersonal
  • Health
  • Phys. Ed.
  • Math

Many of the MARE lessons are correlated with the NJ Core Curricular Content Standards in the document “The Golden Lessons” available at this site: and also on the Cosee site at:

The MARE Master Trainers would also be happy to help you identify how your activity fits into the MARE program and the NJCCCS through the forum on this site.  Just send out a query and we will be glad to help you!

We realize that  justification is often requested or required by your supervisor.  When you bring a new idea to your school, such as the MARE club or MARE curriculum, it often falls upon you to be the “salesperson” for the product.  Please remember that your COSEE community is here to help you! I can promise you, it is definitely worth it!


End of Summer Thoughts

Hey Everyone!

I have had the fortunate opportunity to spend some more time than usual “down the shore” this summer. As the time winds down, and I start to shift my focus to my classroom and school “stuff”, I am getting excited to see what develops. It is always a challenge to figure out how I can incorporate ocean science themes and lessons into my curriculum. This year that holds even truer than years past. This year, like many teachers in NJ, I will be returning to a totally new curriculum and some of my colleagues that I have worked with for years will not be there. I can’t control some things that have happened before the end of this past school year but I can control my perspective on what is to come this year. I am a special area teacher, specifically, a Spanish teacher. I was running a World Cultures classroom but due to changes, I am returning to the Spanish classroom. This is going to give me an opportunity to “tweak” our existing Spanish program and put my teaching style back into the program. I’d like to use Ane’s saying here and “sprinkle some science” into what we will study in Spanish this year. I’m fortunate because in reality, our Spanish curriculum is very diverse in subject. We teach some math, art, social studies, language arts, and of course science. So I have a few ideas of what I can incorporate. Right off the bat I’d like to set up a “weather wall”. A few years ago at one of our MARE Summer Institutes we received a “weather board” as part of our science materials. I’d like to take that idea and super-size it. Every day during the beginning of class, I’ll ask a student to go right to the computer and find the weather from a Spanish-speaking country. They will be required to post on the bulletin board any and all information about the weather in that city/country–in Spanish of course! I’ll provide them with the “scaffolding” that they’ll need to be successful but it will be their own responsibility. I have some other ideas about using maps and doing some research on hurricanes in the Atlantic. But I have to hash them out once I set up my classroom. Anyway, I’d like to hear how some of you out there will be incorporating some ocean science topics into your classrooms. It doesn’t have to be complicated–just “sprinkle” it on!!


Taken: Bay Ave, Manahawkin--close to Blacky's Clams


MARE Goes To The Club

MARE is branching out from whole school participation, into small designated clubs.  These clubs can be school based or community based, such as 4H or Scouting.  The advantages of the club format include:  freedom….sweet freedom!  Freedom from tests, Freedom from curriculum constraints, Freedom of participants, Freedom of meeting times, Freedom of following your student’s own natural curiousity!   A second advantage is creator control.  You have the control over who attends the club, where and when it meets, and which MARE projects you explore!  The big disadvantage is usually No Money, no money, no money.  Few club leaders are paid positions.  There is typically little money for supplies and field trips.  Don’t let that discourage you.  The benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.  Current MARE Summer Institute participants also have an excellent source for funding their first year within The Geraldine R. Dodge Grant with Rutgers University.

So let’s get started:

  1. Define your target audience
  2. Define your mission: What do you want to accomplish?
  3. Recruit help: Principal or Supervisor, colleagues, parents, look beyond the Science dept., include former/older students, Math teachers, Artists, Physical Education specialists
  4. Create publicity: wiki pages are often free, posters around the school or town, bulletin boards, blogs, newsletters, displays
  5. Designate meeting times and place:  try not to compete with other extra-curricular activities, check schedules, consider transportation requirements, consider equipment in the meeting room.
  6. Consult websites such as:  for help and guidance
  7. Give your club a cool name:  students can create this at your first meeting
  8. Require permission slips and release forms:  give parents an overview of clearly defined expectations for attendance, behavior, field trips, parent participation, mission statement
  9. Plan your first meeting:  keep it simple!, Don’t plan a club like a classroom lesson; it needs to be different, involve the students in some decision making to encourage them to feel ownership of the club (perhaps let them choose from a short list of first activities or solicit ideas from them for future projects that interest them!)  Keep the ideas of inquiry learning and curiousity as the fuel,  foremost in your mind!
  10. Set the agenda for your next meeting:  enlist your students help in collecting needed supplies, ask students to contribute to an online wiki page: use pen names to keep student identity hidden, ask for feedback on meeting #1, ideas for the future, create an online science response journal, allow students to post questions
  11. Establish a routine for club meetings:  Gail Cervalo from the MARE Summer Institute suggested:
  • Enter and sign in
  • Thought experiment or Journal jotting (i.e., pretend you are an ice molecule on an ice flow in Antarctica, describe your journey)
  • Idea exchange
  • Team experiment and data recording
  • Reflection round
  •  Journals go home for reflection,  and sharing at the next meeting

For further explanation, you can contact Gail at:  She is a wonderful resource!

Activities and Project Ideas:

Once you have your club set up and your mission statement clearly defined, where can you find ideas for projects?  2010 MARE Summer Institute participants should use their proposed project for Ocean Day as their starting point.    In addition, there are numerous resources available online to match your student’s interest:

You can search the STEM Clubs website under Activity ideas or Project ideas

You can start with a “golden lesson” for any grade level in the MARE program, with CCCStandards, interdisciplinary ideas, materials lists, and simple clear directions at: also on the COSEE site at:

Add in some of the interactive, discovery learning lessons from the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium at:  registration is free.  Marsh munchies is one of my personal favorites!

Go for a swim with UCLA’s Science Standards with Integrated Marine Science (SSWIMS) where lesson plans and data sets are listed alphabetically for easy searching:

Rutgers COOL Room (Coastal Ocean Observatory Lab) can help you use online interactive lessons with real-time data on topics such as weather, sea surface temperature and currents, marine food webs and fish habitats.  Middle to high school is the target age range for these activities! COOL off at:

Of course, there are many more wonderful resources both online and in print.  These are just a few to get you started!  That is the important message:  JUST GET STARTED!  MARE clubs will have an intrinsic driving force….your students curiousity and motivation to learn.  Keep it fun, keep it simple, enjoy the experience along side of your students.  There is a little of that curious kid inside all of us…tap into it and let it free for an hour a week in your club!


There is a simple MARE club planning page in the documents section on the COSEE site: 



August 2010 National Report on Water Quality

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmentalist group, realeased its annual “Testing the Waters” report last week (8/1/2010).  The report contains results from over 200 bay and ocean beach water samplings over the past year. 

  • Beachwood Beach West was ranked the state’s dirtiest with 51% of samples exceeding safe bacteria levels
  • West Beach in Pine Beach had 33% of samples exceeding the state limit
  • Money Island in Toms River had 26% of samples exceeding the state standard
  • Ocean beaches fared better than bay beaches with levels of fecal bacteria minimal or non-existent
  • Jennifer Street in Stafford Twp. and Parkertown Road Beach in Little Egg Harbor had no samples that exceeded state limits.

Experts believe that most of the bacteria content in local waterways is the result of leaky septic sytems and even public sewerage facilities, as well as pet waste that is washed down storm drains and fed through outfall pipes into the bay.


  • Properly cleaning up pet waste
  • Maintaining septic systems
  • stormwater management plans
  • Maintain and monitor sewerage systems
  • Proposed laws to require fertilizer manufacturers to sell only low-nitrogen products
  • Legislation to require and fund stormwater management plans

More information is available at:      and

One Ocean, one chance at making a difference.


MARE Summer Institute 2010

Welcome to the MARE Summer Institute 2010! We have been a busy bunch of educators!  Over the past four days we have been working very hard to internalize the ocean science concepts and activities that we can incorporate into our own classrooms and curricula.

Heave! Ho! 100 feet to go!

On Monday we were able to head out to the first bridge next to our home base, the JCNERR, to seine with our favorite ichthyologist Motz! Tuesday brought on another bunch of interesting adventures.  We took a trip to Island Beach State Park to do some mapping activities and also hit the bay for some exploration via kayak.  That was a fun day!  I haven’t done that much paddling in a long time! It was well worth it because of all that we experienced.  We saw everything from ospreys to moon snails and we even got a close up with a very large blue crab.  Fortunately, we had Ane help us sketch some “kinder” crabs with a really cool chalk pastel sketching activity. After a day like that I can understand why we need to remember to give our students appropriate time to process information–pondering is very important!  That afternoon we worked on our media projects–earlier in the week Sage asked us to put together a short movie about something that we found important or interesting.  He gave us the assignment to collect images, sound clips and videos to use in Microsoft Movie Maker or iMovie.  This is a fun project to do with your students, I’ve used it with decent success.  Sage intentionally did not go into great detail about each piece of digital equipment–sometimes it is better to “play” to learn. If the students are given time to “play” with the equipment, they tend to have a stronger recollection on how to navigate the controls.

A place to ponder...

If you try this method and activity remember to remind the students that they are all to help each other.  If someone knows how to do something, they have the opportunity to teach another student how and then that student can “pay it forward” as well. Wednesday was a life changing day for me.  We were able to visit the Seawatch International clam docks in Atlantic City.  For those people who are attending the MARE Institute for the first time, keep in mind that as MARE trainers we also learn a lot from our experiences.  Remember that we are students too!  Later Wednesday afternoon I was to present a lesson on sustainable seafood.  The lesson is from the Monterey Bay Aquarium called Rate A Plate.  I didn’t realize how important the lesson was to bringing the message of sustainability directly into our students lives.  After hearing Guy present the process of harvesting clams and the issues that they face regarding sustainability, it made my lesson more important than ever.  I hope that I was able to translate that importance to our attendees.  As simple as it sounds, we have a huge role in the demand for sustainable seafood and you all heard it on the docks!  Supply and demand–simple economics drive almost everything in the seafood industry.  If we demand sustainability as consumers, the providers will have to supply… The afternoon culminated with a wrap up from Dr. Carolyn Creed about Surf Clams and Climate change.  I really enjoyed her energy!  I had the pleasure, earlier in the day, of sharing a meal with Carolyn, Ane and Rob.  What a diverse group of minds!  I was enthralled with our table-talk.  Have any of you ever wished that a conversation could have been heard on Capitol Hill?  If so, that was one of those types of conversations.

Later Wednesday evening we had a beautiful banquet to celebrate the week and award MARE Teacher of the Year.  Janice presented Ari Daniel Shapiro’s podcast, Accentuate the Positive.  I cannot express how important this idea is to my philosophy of teaching.  Every day we make a conscious choice to be positive or negative.  Not necessarily when we wake up in the morning–“am I going to be positive or negative today?”  It happens in the little moments–do we smile at the kids in the hallway?  Stop to lend a hand to someone?  Give someone a second chance?  Go the extra mile to find out how to inspire an uninspired student?  Take a risk and venture out of our educational comfort zone to present a lesson to a student who learns differently?  Those moments are so small that if we aren’t aware of them, we often will miss an opportunity.  As educators we have no idea the extent of the impact that we have on our students’ futures.  I have had the honor of having a few former students return to tell me how I had a positive impact on their lives.  I can tell you that it is hard not to well-up with tears of pride when hearing those stories.

I can equate it to our current situation regarding our marine environments:  the little things that we do now to educate the public in a positive way will someday have a greater positive impact on our precious marine environments than we can currently conceive.  That is why I think it is so important that we keep trying to spread the word. Thursday arrived with a room full of weary spirits!  I don’t know about the rest of you but I was beat by Thursday morning!  I have to give the participants credit, you guys really stuck it out!  We put all of you through activities that you wouldn’t normally do and you participated, voluntarily and con gusto!  A funny example of this willingness to participate happened when Motz asked us to take the smaller seine net to the southern side of the first bridge.  It was a very peaceful setting and the bugs were minimal, as was the heat.  So Motz asked for a few volunteers to seine with this net, which was a lot easier to handle than the 100-footer that we used across the street.  I wanted to get wet so I volunteered.  Amy volunteered as well.  Motz got one side and Amy and I took the other side of the net.  As Motz decended into the shallow tidewater, he encouraged us to do the same.  Amy and I stepped into the water.  The first step was easy.  The second was not.  Amy and I simultaneously sank almost three feet into the soft silt of the lagoon bottom.  Panic immediately coursed through my mind!  I turned around and I saw the same look on Amy’s face!  I actually think I yelled at Motz asking him “how deep does this get?”  He just hollered back “just keep going, this is as deep as it gets!”  I glanced back at Amy to see if she was still on board.  Even with the two of us freaking out, she nodded and asked if I was ok.  It was her affirmation that kept me going(a little moment of positivity goes a long way).

The Big Haul

We continued out into the water and helped each other navigate the three foot deep mud.  It wasn’t easy and both of us were shaken.  But we did it!  We were able to drag the net back onshore to see what glorious bounty we seined.  There wasn’t much in the net.  Except for a huge blue crab, which Motz confidently picked up and showed to the downstream frustrated crabbers before sneering and throwing it back to his home.  This was a new experience for me and I would like to thank Amy for helping me overcome my fears of the “lagoon mud”, of which, as anyone in my family is reading this knows(Danny), I am horribly afraid.

Every year that I have been a part of the MARE Summer Institute, I always feel a little sad as the week comes to a close.  However, on that last day when we asked the participants to share their ideas of how we can collectively and individually incorporate the important ideas about ocean science into our teachings, I felt a certain happiness.  Every member of our newest MARE team was able to envision themselves passing on these lessons to the kids.

I cannot wait until I start hearing some of your ideas!  If any of you ever need any help, PLEASE, post your questions here!  We all need to have a common place to share ideas and improve upon them!  I don’t ever mind answering emails but that is only a two way communication.  If we post our questions, ideas and thoughts here or in our forums we can collectively create more interactive and sustainable ocean science lessons!


2010 MARE Summer Institute: Let’s Get Physical, Day 4

Kinesthetic Fun With Rob Causton

The MARE curriculum is an all inclusive smorgasboard!  Knowledge from the classroom is included in physical education games and activities, thanks to the imagination and talent of Mr. Rob Causton.  Participants worked cooperatively in teams during the Vent Shrimp Kinesthetic Activity, where bean bags represented vent shrimp who must live in clearly defined areas surrounding hydrothermal vents in order to survive.  Physical education goals such as tossing, running, and catching were imbedded in the fun and educational activity.  For more information and corresponding core curriculum content standards please visit Mr. Causton’s website at:   Remember the words of advice from Rob, “Stay flexible, make the MARE curriculum fit your needs.  The information/ knowledge is important, not necessarily how we deliver it.”   Hints:  Special needs modifications=they take the first turns to throw the bean bags, Playing cards are a quick easy way to make (4) teams (4 suits) and order participants by number, Avoid competition (winners/losers) by having teams try to improve their own score with each round.

Measuring Temperature with Dr. Carrie

The Summer Institute crew used non-contact temperature sensors by Pasco (PS-2000) to determine the indoor and outdoor temperature in various areas.  These sensors measure temp by determining the amount of heat energy given off by an object.  They detect infrared radiation and use this value to estimate temperature.  Two kits of these sensors can be borrowed from the Marine and Coastal Science Building in New Brunswick for your classroom use.  Scientists use similar sensors on satellites to measure the temperature of the land and ocean from space.  Images are produced on computers, with red=hot   blue=cold.  Students can compare local environmental temperature with data available for daily average, state average, and country’s average.  Student friendly data is available online at:   Collecting data and using it is a key part of the MARE curriculum.   Let’s get our students thinking and acting like scientists!



 Ocean Home-Swimming Fishes with Laura Dunbar

Laura shared a great activity with a human-sized  gameboard designed by Rutgers students Jason Turnure and Jason Werrell. It was used to  demonstrate how changes in water temperature  affect fish distributions and, ultimately fisheries.  With the expected change in ocean temperature due to global climate change, many commercial fish populations will move in response. As a result this will have a “domino” effect on surrounding populations.  One Ocean, one habitat, one change, many repurcussions! Further directions and the fish cards are available on this Cosee site:

Using Literature with MARE by Karen Lobby and Crystal DiBetta

Think about your daily life, what percentage of your daily reading is nonfiction?  Most participants replied 75%, 90%.  Does your classroom reflect your daily practice?  Using nonfiction in your language arts lessons reflects the national and state standards, morrors tasks on standardized tests, and provides a way into literacy that narratives cannot.  Academic achievement in school relies heavily on informational reading and writing.  Above all, nonfiction motivates students with its beautiful, engaging and interesting photographs and information!  Be sure to refer to the list of resources Crystal provided.  A few highlights to investigate on the list:  science journals or notebooks in the 8th grade list (Antarctica, Penguins), timely books on Jacques Cousteau in the 4th grade books (100th anniversary of his birth), and the Tsunami books in the 5th grade list (going out of print).  Crystal also recommended that you join: The  National Science Teachers Assoc.  Sign up to receive their journal;  which includes the best of the best trade books, published in March. Join at:  ($75 fee, $34 if you are a new teacher of less than 5 years experience).  Crystal also recommends The National Geographic nonfiction newsletter for tips and techniques on using nonfiction  with your students. Sign up is free online at   Karen reminded the participants to utilize newspapers and other periodicals for timely information on marine science.  Encourage your students to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways: acrostic poems, build a windsock to show the zones of the sandy beach,use ABC books with any grade level where students demonstrate information in an alphabetical book  or list.  One of Karen’s hints:  Give parents and staff members a small zip lock bag when they head off on vacation to collect sand samples from around the globe for your classroom.

The Blah, Blah,Big, Big, Blog, Blog  from Susan and Mike

Remember, the purpose of this blog is to keep our community of Marvelous MARE Enthusiasts COMMUNICATING!!!

Do you have a comment on the Summer Institute?  send it to the Blog through Comments!

Do you need an idea or help with your project? send it to the Forum for an ALL Call for ideas!

Are you trying to recall the mountain of information we crammed into the 4 day Institute? Check the daily record in the Blogs!

Do you want to plan an Ocean Day or Ocean Week at your school?  Send a question out to the Forum or Check the Blog for our ideas on how we started!

You can search the Cosee site using the search box.  Blogs are “tagged” by topic to help you find the one you need.  The search box will search these “tags” for you!

Is there a topic in your current curriculum,  that you want to incorporate MARE into?  Send Mike, Laura, Karen, Crystal, Rob or Sue and email or post it in the Forum and watch the ideas swim into shore!


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