Last week, 14 science and math teachers from middle and high schools through-out the coastal region of Texas immersed themselves in an intensive training course in estuary ecology and human connections. The three-day experience brought them face to face with tiny plankton to majestic endangered sea turtles. The goal of the free workshop was to help teachers’ access and use real scientific data in classroom activities that expose students to real-world problems.
The teachers participated in field experiences that enabled them to explore the functions, value, and beauty of local estuary habitats – salt marshes, wetlands and seagrass meadows. They were guided in their investigations by scientists from The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program who brought them up-to-speed on the latest research conducted and technologies employed in the Coastal Bend. The teachers learned how to access real scientific data online and apply these data in problem solving activities that are based on actual research.
One of the many field experiences included investigating water quality in three unique estuarine habitats. Water quality in these estuarine zones change under different flow rates from the rivers and local rainfall. The teachers were able to make the connection for themselves and their future students about how water quality can change and how that knowledge can be used to make better decisions about the timing of municipal water releases and fertilizer applications within coastal watersheds, along with how plants and animals adapt to natural and human-caused impacts.
The teachers who participated in this training course gained new knowledge, resources, and activities that they will implement in their classes this school year and for many years to come. Each teacher will impact hundreds of school children from Texas coastal watershed counties, who are likely to be the next generation of coastal decision-makers and stewards.
The teachers who participated in the workshop received a stipend and classroom resources. Funding was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by way of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve and support from the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program.