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Final gift

Ocean Sciences receives donation for new graduate award

Teaching and Learning

By Kelly Foss

A final gift from the Oceans Learning Partnership (OLP) will enable the Department of Ocean Sciences to continue offering ocean education programs to Newfoundland and Labrador high school students.

The newly established J. Roger Pearson Graduate Award in Ocean Education and Outreach was created to honour and recognize the founding director of the OLP, which recently completed its mandate.

Distinguished career

Mr. Pearson has a long and distinguished record as an educator and innovator.

He was instrumental in establishing Marine Institute (MI) International as an entity to engage the facility’s expertise in marine education and coastal community development opportunities worldwide, and was previously the head of the School of Naval Architecture and Shipbuilding at the former College of Fisheries.

Following his tenure at MI International, Mr. Pearson assumed a key role in numerous education projects around the world as an education sector staff consultant for the World Bank in the Middle East, North Africa region.

Under Mr. Pearson’s leadership, the OLP and Memorial University signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 to inaugurate a new experimental learning program for high school students at the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC).

Touch tanks are a key experience for the numerous K-12 youth that take part in the programming.
Photo: David Howells

The Marine Biodiversity Lab Program was subsequently launched as part of the university’s outreach and public engagement strategy, in collaboration with the OLP.

The program was developed by Danielle Nichols, research marketing manager with the Department of Ocean Sciences, and is delivered by ocean sciences graduate students and pre-service teachers in collaboration with the Faculty of Education.

“The hands-on, lab-based field trip program has also been a very effective recruitment tool for our undergraduate programs in ocean sciences and marine biology,” said Ms. Nichols. “This gift will allow our department to continue to offer our experiential programs across the province. The fellowships are also a wonderful opportunity for our graduate students, allowing them to become mentors to the next generation, while gaining valuable teaching experience of their own.”

The graduate award will allow for ocean sciences graduate students to gain valuable teaching experience.
Photo: David Howells

The gift will also provide an opportunity for three to four graduate students annually to participate in development and delivery of the department’s high school programming.

“Both Roger and the Department of Ocean Sciences have been integral to the OLP since day one, even before day one,” said Leslie Grattan, chair of the OLP. “The graduate award will enable the OLP’s emphasis on hands-on experience by students with ocean life and technology to continue at the OSC.”

Virtual modules

While the global pandemic meant the department has been unable to offer in-person field trips in recent years, with help from the OLP it was able to create four new virtual modules based on the original program.

They are geared towards the learning outcomes in a number of high school courses, including Science 1206, Earth Systems 3209, Biology 2201 and Biology 3201, as well as the new Biology 3201 pilot program.

One person points in the direction of a water tank while the other person listens. Two people are in the background, as is a second water tank with a seal poking its head out.
Students check out the seal tanks during a field trip to the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay.
Photo: David Howells

“Our pilot of this virtual program saw us connect with approximately 450 students and teachers from across the province, such as Arnold’s Cove, Placentia, Stephenville, Pasadena, Bay d’Espoir, Rocky Harbour and Avondale,” said Ms. Nichols. “This brings our total number of program participants to approximately 3,700 students since 2013.”

This spring, in collaboration with Dr. Annie Mercier, a professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at Memorial, and her research group, the department delivered virtual programs to high school students at Paatsaali School in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, with plans for an in-person delivery in May.

Despite the OLP’s mandate coming to a conclusion, Ms. Nichols says the 10-plus-year partnership enabled the department to create the initial programming and establish links with other educational organizations throughout the province to allow them to continue moving forward.

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