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Ocean fellows

Unique collaboration opens up world of ocean sciences to teachers-in-training

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial's leadership and expertise in cold ocean and Arctic science, technology and society (COASTS).

By Kelly Foss

A group of education students will take part in hands-on field experiences to explore how integrating the ocean into the K-12 science curriculum can become a valuable supplement to classroom instruction.

With support from the Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd., the Oceans Learning Partnership (OLP), in collaboration with the Faculty of Education and the Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, is providing teaching fellowships for 16 pre-service teachers in primary/elementary and intermediate/secondary school degree programs at Memorial starting this fall.

Field sites

The Hibernia Teaching Fellowships in Ocean Sciences and Technology are based on 72-hour field placements at one of OLP’s five field sites: Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) in Logy Bay; Johnson GEO Centre in St. John’s; Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre in Conception Bay South; Bonne Bay Marine Station (BBMS) in Norris Point; and the Labrador Institute in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay.
The Ocean Sciences Centre, Logy Bay
Photo: Dave Howells

“Experiential learning in the field is the cornerstone of OLP’s educational programming,” said Maria Giovaninni, executive director, OLP.

“These field placements will provide exceptional learning opportunities and engage fellows in exploring how ocean themes and topics and field trip experiences can be integrated into the science and career development curriculum in the province as an extension to classroom instruction.”

The field placements will also help equip STEM teachers with a series of engaging teaching and learning tools to help get students excited about ocean science while meeting curriculum outcomes.

Fellows will develop plans for school field trips that outline pre-visit preparation and post-visit, in-class followup, as well as exploring best practices and protocols for field trips to OLP’s partner sites.

“The lab program introduces students to the diversity of life in the oceans.” — Danielle Nichols

At the OSC, four of the teaching fellows will help deliver the lab-based program for Grade 10 and 11 biology students.

The OSC has been partnering with OLP since 2013 to invite high school science classes to participate in a one-day, hands-on lab program. The program, which was designed to complement the at-sea field program offered by the Oceans Learning Partnership, saw more than 550 students participate from across the Avalon in 2016 alone.

“The lab program introduces students to the diversity of life in the oceans and hopefully, raising their awareness about marine science,” said Danielle Nichols, research marketing manager, OSC. “Our graduate students are actively involved in delivering the lab program and act as mentors to high school students.”

Ms. Nichols says while Memorial does a lot of public engagement, she believes the greatest impact the university can have is when researchers talk directly to students and the public about their work at a level they can understand.

‘Huge interest’

“There’s huge interest in ocean sciences in the schools,” said Dr. Annie Mercier, deputy head, Department of Ocean Sciences. “Students are fascinated by ocean-related curriculum and we want teachers to become more knowledgeable and feel comfortable talking about ocean sciences. So using ocean examples will become more natural to them.”

Additionally, the fellows at the OSC will work on developing a field guide to marine fauna of the Northwest Atlantic, with a focus on dominant invertebrates in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“There are guidebooks out there, but most focus on the Maritimes to Cape Cod region,” said Dr. Mercier. “They never include Newfoundland and Labrador and the lower Arctic.”

She says the guidebook project will offer the students an opportunity to learn how to research databases for information on various species and become familiarized with the technical aspects of developing a guide – finding pictures, fact checking and formatting.

Experiential learning

Dr. Gerald Galway is associate dean of Memorial’s Faculty of Education.

He says the faculty is excited about the new fellowship program.

“The work the fellows will be doing in their field placements is complementary, in terms of constructivist pedagogy, to many of the outcomes in the primary/elementary school curriculum.” he said. “It’s another great addition to the experiential learning activities available to Memorial students and it provides an opportunity for our teacher candidates to work in the community doing something related to their education programs.”

From left are Danielle Nichols and Dr. Gerald Galway
From left are Danielle Nichols and Dr. Gerald Galway
Photo: Mike Ritter

He says the OLP has been engaged with the Faculty of Education in designing the program, with instructors being able to provide feedback and help shape the program.

“They’ve been great partners,” said Dr. Galway. “Their focus has been on raising awareness of the value of ocean science in the province. That should be very important to all of us in Newfoundland and Labrador. I think these kinds of projects can really help promote that awareness.”

About the OLP

The OLP offers a suite of boat-, shore- and lab-based field programs for students in the K-12 school system at a network of partner sites around the province – OSC, BBMS, Terra Nova National Park, GEO Centre, Manuels River and Conne River (Coast of Bays). OLP’s flagship educational program is the Coastal Explorers Field School. More than 20 scientists, researchers, technicians, resource managers and graduate students affiliated with Memorial University, Parks Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada participate in the delivery of this program.

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