SSC’s Kate Leavitt hits the national marine education scene

SSC’s Director of Mission, Kate Leavitt, recently hit the Carolina lowcountry, to attend the National Marine Educator Association’s (NMEA) annual national conference. This year’s conference, Seas of Change, was hosted by the South Carolina Marine Educators Association, the SC chapter of NMEA, in Charleston, SC. NMEA’s mission is to make known the world of water, both fresh and salt, and each year a regional chapter hosts a fantastic gathering, designed to bring practitioners and experts together to share, learn and promote awareness and education of the global marine environment. This year, three hundred representatives from aquariums, non-profit NGOs, government agencies, and educational institutions from around the world came together for five days of learning, sharing, and networking.

As an NMEA board member and regional chapter (Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association) past-President, Kate participated in several meetings on national and international initiatives. Before the conference began, Kate met with national and international experts, at a day long board meeting, to discuss goals and objectives for the coming year.

One initiative, international expansion of the Ocean Literacy Principles (developed and disseminated by NMEA), holds great promise for increasing marine science content representation in school standards, beyond the United States school system. NMEA was invited to partner with the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA). This group is guided by the Galway Statement of 2013. The Galway Statement, signed by the United States, European Union, and Canada, seeks to:

  • improve ocean health and stewardship
  • promote sustainable management of resources
  • improve ecosystem assessments and forecasts and deeper understanding of vulnerabilities and risks, including climate change
  • generate new tools to increase resilience, conserve rich biodiversity, manage risk and determine social, environmental, and economic priorities
  • promote our citizens’ understanding of the value of the Atlantic by promoting ocean literacy

Partnering with AORA is an exciting development for NMEA and this international relationship will go a long way toward advancing Ocean Literacy at a broader scale. The Ocean Literacy Framework, which includes the Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP) and the Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence, is groundbreaking in its identification and organization of the core concepts of ocean sciences for educational purposes. NMEA worked diligently on Next Gen Science Standards (NGSS) planning and development workgroups  for inclusion of the OLP in the NGSS, and succeeded in getting ocean science requisite in 20% of the core ideas, cross-cutting concepts and scientific and engineering practices of the standards. Ocean science is representative in an even greater portion of NGSS, and can be used as the lens to teach other topics, as well.  You can see here how the unifying concepts align with the OLP’s, by subject area and grade level.

The Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) is the local, regional chapter of NMEA, and is governed by a volunteer board. As GOMMEA past-President, Kate is active on the Executive Committee of the board and serves as Chapter Representative to the national board. GOMMEA had the opportunity to meet with a small contingent of the membership and board down in Charleston, and to discuss some exciting news: GOMMEA will be hosting the NMEA 2019 Conference at University of New Hampshire, in Durham, NH! To learn more about GOMMEA, the 2019 conference, or to volunteer for the planning committee, please reach out to Kate at [email protected] or check out the GOMMEA website here.

The conference wasn’t all meetings and planning, however. Three days of concurrent sessions and field trips offered great opportunities for learning about new marine science research and education projects from around the world. New ideas and best practices on innovative ways to teach marine science with drones, virtual reality, ebooks, apps, and cutting edge microscopes, provided professional development, resources and new contacts for partnership opportunities. Other sessions allowed attendees to get a glimpse of how colleagues at other aquariums are teaching their hands-on programming and to get new ideas for implementation at their own institutions. Stay tuned for new additions and twists on SSC programs on ocean acidification, citizen science, and phytoplankton!

Evening events provided participants with opportunities to network and visit local landmarks, cultural institutions, and aquariums.  The final evening event culminated at the SC Aquarium, where attendees dined, danced, toured behind the scenes, and attended a cephaloparty and live broadcast with NPR’s Science Friday!

SSC plays an active role in many regional and national professional organizations such as NMEA, including New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative, NH Environmental Education Association, New England Museum Association, Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association, and many others. We feel that it is vital to our strength and relevancy that we remain closely connected with our professional colleagues so that we continue to be well-informed and responsive members of our professional and local communities.

 

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