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.
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.
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).
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!