Educating the Next Generation:
Sea Grant's Role in Marine Science Education
True or False?
- Americans are concerned about the health of the ocean -- to
the point that many feel that ocean exploration should be given
preference over space exploration.
- Less than half of American adults queried understand that the
earth orbits the sun yearly.
- Most people believe that an individual can have an impact on
improving the environment.
- The number of people who actively participate in environmental
activities is quite small.
These statements are all true, based upon answers given by respondents
to recent polls and surveys about science, technology, and the environment.
Such studies, when looked at individually or collectively, often
reveal differences between respondents' perceptions and actions.
For example, despite widespread concern about the environment, a
lack of knowledge and understanding of basic scientific concepts
exists. And, while many people express a desire to improve the environment,
a substantial number feel that it is someone else's responsibility.
These inconsistencies underscore the need for increased support
of science education at all levels. Through education, students
will develop a better understanding of scientific principles and
become more prepared to apply that understanding to real-life decisions.
By improving the education of and accessibility to scientific information
by students of all ages and vocations, we will have knowledgeable
citizens, voters, policy-makers, regulators, and decision-makers.
Sea Grant's Role in Marine Science Education
Sea Grant has played a role in marine and environmental education
since the inception of the program in 1968. That Sea Grant figures
prominently in the education of future scientists and others was
even referred to in Sea Grant's authorizing legislation in 1966.
In the National Sea Grant Program Network Plan, 1995-2005,
commitment to education plays a dual role: developing a citizenry
that is informed about environmental issues and training highly
qualified professionals for the 21st century. Educational programs
are conducted through partnerships with academic institutions, government
agencies, citizen groups, and businesses.
Rationale for Marine Science Education
Recently, the National Research Council published the National
Science Education Standards, designed to achieve scientific literacy
for all U.S. students in the 21 st century. The Standards state:
"scientific literacy enables people to use scientific issues
and processes in making personal decisions and to participate in
discussions of scientific issues that affect society." Among
other things, the Standards provide guidance for schools, educators,
parents, communities, businesses, scientists, and other organizations
and audiences to work together to achieve this overall goal.
Achieving scientific literacy for students -- and adults -- is
an important goal. Among the many sound arguments for science education,
Sea Grant has invested in educational programs designed to accomplish
- To improve the science and technology skills of students;
- To prepare today's students for a technologically advanced
- To help students compete in the job market;
- To create a more knowledgeable and scientifically literate
- To better prepare citizens to effect change and protect marine
- To prepare and/or re-train today's workforce to compete in
tomorrow's work-place as certain jobs disappear or change; and
- To create a public that can compete successfully in the global
WHOI Sea Grant's Involvement in Marine Science and Technology
WHOI Sea Grant supports marine science and technology education
by offering formal and informal educational opportunities and products
to several different audiences. Listed below are some of the current
programs, grouped by audience:
At the K-12 level, WHOI Sea Grant contributions to marine science
education fall under the informal education umbrella and can be
divided into three categories:
"Sea Urchins" Summer Program:
B illed as a 'hands-on, get-wet-and-muddy exploration program, '
the "Sea Urchins" summer program is for children ages
5-7. The activities consist of several interactive field trips designed
to introduce children to the wonders of science and the environment,
while making the most of their inquisitive nature and desire to
find out how things work.
Supplemental Curriculum Materials: WHOI
Sea Grant produces a broad range of materials intended for use by
classroom teachers, informal educators, and students to supplement
existing curricula or field studies. Examples of recent publications
include: All About Oceanography: A Fun Filled Activity Book, Field
Guides for New England Marine Environments, and Tips on Preparing
a Scientific Research Paper. Some publications are produced in collaboration
with other organizations. Examples include: Marine Science Reading
List, Raindrop Journey (poster and narrative describing the water
cycle), Over the Wedge (saltmarsh poster), and the WHOI Teacher
Packet. In 1996, WHOI and UNH Sea Grant communications staff published
Marine Science Careers: A Sea Grant Guide to Ocean Opportunities,
aimed at middle and high school students, teachers, parents, and
guidance counselors interested in pursuing or informing students
about a career in the marine sciences. Based on the success of that
publication, now in its second printing, the creation of a national
Sea Grant marine careers web site is underway (http://www.marinecareers.net).
Partnerships: Partnering with other organizations
to address K-12 needs allows WHOI Sea Grant to extend its financial
and staff contributions. Locally, we are very involved in the Woods
Hole Science and Technology Education Partnership (WHSTEP), a partnership
among the local schools, scientific institutions, businesses, and
community resources to support, promote, and expand science and
technology education and science literacy in the participating communities.
Other groups with which we share an interest and collaborative role
in K-12 education are: the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research
Reserve (WBNERR), the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod,
the Massachusetts Marine Educators (MME), the National Marine Educators
Association (NMEA), and the National Science Teachers Association
(NSTA), to name a few.
WHOI has supported an undergraduate summer research opportunity
for over 30 years and it has served as a model for the National
Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates as well
as other summer undergraduate programs. The fellowship awards are
highly competitive and recipients have generally completed their
junior year in college. WHOI also supports a Minority Traineeship
for undergraduate students at all levels. In each of these programs
students are matched with mentors according to their academic and
research interests. Many students are placed in laboratories that
are supported by WHOI Sea Grant projects.
Undergraduate and graduate students have been associated with WHOI
on an informal basis since its found- ing in 1930 and many well-known
names in oceanography began their careers in Woods Hole. In 1968
the Institution established a formal joint doctoral program in oceanography
with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and together the
two institutions have granted over 500 graduate degrees in oceanography
and ocean engineering. WHOI Sea Grant has provided support to many
graduate students over the years. This is reflected by WHOI Sea
Grant acknowledgment on over 35 dissertations and theses. WHOI Sea
Grant has also participated in the Sea Grant Intern program, now
called the Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, and the
Coastal Services Center Coastal Management Fellowship Program.
Modeled after our summer fellowship program for undergraduate students,
WHOI Sea Grant and WHOI's Education Program have initiated a two-year
teacher fellowship program that attracts teachers from throughout
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Teacher fellows participate in
an 8-week summer research experience during their first year to
learn how research projects are conducted. During their second summer,
teacher fellows will continue their research projects and begin
to develop curriculum materials that can incorporate their research
experience into their teaching.
Education of the General Public:
Locally and regionally, WHOI Sea Grant educates the general public
using the following vehicles:
Publications: One of the ways that Sea
Grant programs across the country reach out to their audiences is
via publications. WHOI Sea Grant is active in the publication of
a newsletter, Two if by Sea, produced jointly with the MIT Sea Grant
College Program (three issues/year), and Nor'easter magazine, a
publication of the six northeast Sea Grant programs (two issues/year).
In addition to these periodicals, we produce the "Focal Points"
fact sheets, Marine Extension Bulletins, and contribute to numerous
newsletters and periodicals published by other organizations. In
1995, WHOI Sea Grant made its debut on the Internet with a comprehensive
and frequently updated web site (http://www.whoi.edu/seagrant).
Outreach Events or Activities: To remain
visible in the public eye, WHOI Sea Grant organizes and/or participates
in several outreach events or activities throughout the year. Examples
include our "Oceans Alive" lecture series, designed to
excite the public about current topics in marine science; annual
"Coastweeks" activities to celebrate the coast (we have
organized guided beach, botany, and bird walks, kayaking ecotours,
art contests, Coastweeks lectures, and a special evening of marine-related
poetry and verse); and an annual storm drain stenciling project
designed to educate people about the dangers of non-point source
pollution and runoff. WHOI Sea Grant has a number of travelling
displays for conferences and workshops and a permanent informational
exhibit in the WHOI Visitor Center where annual attendance exceeds
Media: Working with the media, through
the distribution of press releases, invitations to special events,
and facilitating reporter-source relationships for articles is an
ongoing process. Helping the media gain access to accurate and current
scientific information is crucial, as it is the only link that many
people have to scientific information.
Technical Audiences Education:
Many Americans see the development and implementation of new technology
as a remedy for environmental woes. In a recent survey conducted
by EarthView for the National 4-H Council and Honda, 81 percent
of teens and 76 percent of so-called 'baby boomers' believe that
advances in technology will help solve environmental problems. Both
groups also agreed that teens will have the greatest impact on the
While WHOI Sea Grant believes that technology training is imperative
to the education of our youth, most of our programs address adults
engaged in occupations that involve or depend on technology. Some
examples of audiences targeted by current WHOI Sea Grant programs
include: fishers and shellfishers, aquaculturists, harbormasters,
conservation commissioners, beach managers, local and state policy-makers
and decision-makers, and regulatory officials.
Most of our efforts in technology training and education are accomplished
by WHOI Sea Grant Extension staff using the following tools: workshops,
courses, publications, financial support, and responding to requests
for assistance and expertise.
WHOI Sea Grant's Participation in Regional and National
Marine Science Education
Sea Grant's role in marine education for diverse audiences has
made a difference at the local, regional, and national level. Sea
Grant's continued participation in this arena will play an important
role in helping the nation fulfill its goal as stated in the National
Science Education Standards, namely, to create a scientifically
literate public. As a federally sponsored and state and locally-matched
program, Sea Grant can help make connections between government,
the academic research community, schools, and communities. This
need was unanimously expressed by participants at the 1996 Workshop
on Ocean Sciences and K-12 Education, sponsored by the National
Science Foundation and led by the Consortium for Ocean Research
and Education (CORE).
Sea Grant's successful history in establishing partnerships and
creating linkages between informal and formal education will continue
to be used as a national model. It is imperative that continued
federal, state, and local support be invested in Sea Grant's educational
For more information about the research or outreach projects profiled
in Focal Points, contact WHOI Sea Grant at the address listed below.