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Education Resources

NOAA Ocean Podcast: Episode 34

Discover the many free lesson plans, tutorials, fun activities, and other educational material offered by the National Ocean Service for educators, for students, for parents — or for anyone who wants to learn about our ocean and coasts.

a series of small images showing different education activities and programs offered by NOS

The National Ocean Service offers a wide variety of materials for educators, students, and kids.


BRUCE MORAVCHIK: No matter where you live, you are having an effect on the ocean and the ocean is having an effect on you. Every state is an ocean state, and everything we do every day, it impacts our ocean and our world. Now, no one can do everything. But everyone can do something. And the first step to take is to become more ocean literate, and this is the place to do it: NOAA’s Ocean Service.

HOST: That was an excerpt from this episode from today’s guest, Bruce Moravchik. Bruce coordinates the National Ocean Service’s educational offerings and the NOAA Planet Stewards program. Bruce is here to talk about what National Ocean Service websites have to offer for free for educators, for students, for parents, and really for anyone who wants to learn about our ocean and coasts. Bruce, thanks for joining us by phone today. Can you tell us a little about what you do at NOAA?

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: I develop products and programs to help increase educator’s and students and just anyone’s environmental literacy while trying to have them better understand the kind of research, technology and activities that we do here in the ocean service. And I also really enjoy coordinating the NOAA Planet Stewards project, which is a program developed for educators to help provide them with resources to build scientifically literate students, as well as to create and carry out stewardship activities in their schools and in their communities.

HOST: Before we dive in to some of the specific kinds of educational materials available from the National Ocean Service, I’d like to pull back a bit. One thing I’ve noticed in my years working at NOAA is that there are still many people out there who don’t know what we do at this agency. What do you say to people to explain what NOAA is about, and how does NOAA’s education function fit into that.

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: Well, you know the thing that I am just knocked out about regarding NOAA is how much we do as an organization. You know, you could say that we take the pulse of the planet. NOAA collects, analyzes, and distributes more data in a single day than any other organization in the world. The reason we’re collecting and analyzing this data is to solve real-world problems. In the process, we’re managing earth, ocean, and coastal ecosystems, and our real focus is on future solutions — because we want to have sustainable communities and sustainable ecosystems. With the role of education at NOAA, we want to try and help educators and students and parents and kids — we want everybody to try and understand more about what we do and why we do it, and the world around us.

HOST: Let’s start with educators. What kinds of things do we have freely available on National Ocean Service websites to help teachers in the classroom.

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: NOAA’s ocean service has a really broad and rich array of educational offerings for teachers and classrooms. NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves and our National Marine Sanctuaries have developed a great suite of formal lesson plans as well as data inquiry portals, so students can learn a ton about the remarkable coastal and nearshore ocean ecosystems across our country. And we’ve created a sea level rise module along with NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory which has great multimedia resources, which follows along with the Next Generation Science Standards that many educators are being asked to teach to today. Recently, we’ve come out with a pretty comprehensive learning sequence called Oysters in the Chesapeake which represents a collaborative effort to identify and build and engaging set of K-12 resources.

HOST: Let’s take a closer look at Oysters in the Chesapeake. What should educators expect to find if they go to the education section of the ocean service website and select this learning sequence?

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: They’re going to find three primary units of organization: an elementary unit, middle school unit, and high school unit. Within each one of those units are modules that are organized by grade level. Each one of those grade-level bands is going to focus on a different aspect of the world relating to oysters. We’re just using the oyster as a model here, and this model could be expanded out to almost any different kind of organism in the ecosystems they live in. For example, for kindergarten, we’re really looking at understand water and water quality that the oyster lives in. When you get to higher grade bands, we’re trying to understand more about the animal itself, and sort of how they live in their ecosystem. When we look at the middle school portion of the curriculum, we’re really beginning to ask more involved questions. We’re looking at the history of coastal communities and how they have integrated oysters into their day-to-day lives and into their economies. We’re getting deeper into understanding more about the organism in a more involved level. Also, we’re touching upon things like land use and how land use and watersheds impacts the coasts and organisms there. And when we get to the high school level, we’re really beginning to look at much more involved integrated concepts like environmental research and stewardship, resource management, and simulations and models.

HOST: While the ocean service provides the oyster curriculum and many other formal lesson plans designed for educators, you mentioned earlier that students will also find content developed just for them.

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: There really is a lot for students and for kids as well. For students, what we try to with the ocean service, is we try to look at some topics, some areas of science, that are of particular importance to the ocean service. And we try to really take a deep dive and create tutorials so that students, if they’re doing research or they want to know a lot more about one of these subjects, can read about them and really get this information as NOAA scientists have presented them. We’ve got materials on tides, and ocean currents, or corals, global positioning, and even more than these topics.

HOST: What about educational materials available for people, outside of lesson plans or tutorials?

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: Oh, we have a lot of materials that we want to try and provide to both informal educators who are, say, working in museums or nature centers around the country, as well as for families to be able to do at home — either people on their own or with kids. We’ve developed a series of activities and activity books that have really fun, short activities that you can do. For example, you can learn how to make your own compass. Or you can create a weather station at home, things like a barometer, or an anemometer to check on wind speed, using Dixie cups, pencils, and straws. And the thing that’s great about that, is that no matter where you are, you can check on this information from your local weather service station or even on the radio to see how your readings compare to what’s going on out there, and they’re just a lot of fun.

HOST: Are there any other kinds of educational content on our websites that you want people to know about?

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: You know, one of the things that is so enriching and that we’re finding out that folks are using more and more every single day are video and multimedia. And we’re really trying, within the ocean service, to create resources where folks can learn on the go, or wherever they are. One example is NOAA’s Ocean Today program, which are in museums and aquaria all over the United States, but they’re also available on your phone. Their Every Full Moon series are a series of videos that are exciting, come out once a month. Also, there are things like our resources on marine debris, where you can learn about how your efforts — anywhere you are in the United States — focusing on picking up litter, you can help to get rid of trash in the ocean. And then, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries has created a terrific series of videos, and are coming out now with a wonderful set of virtual reality programs that you can’t miss. There’s so much more. And I also have to mention the terrific Ocean Facts, videos, and podcasts like the one we’re doing, that are on the ocean service website.

HOST: Bruce, thank you so much for joining us to share all of these resources with our listeners. Before we go, I want to ask you this: what’s the one thing you want people to take away from our talk today?

BRUCE MORAVCHIK: Come to NOAA’s Ocean Service to become ocean literate, or more ocean literate. The ocean is the driver of so many essential processes on our planet, and it supports us in ways that don’t even think about on a day-to-day basis. No matter where you live, you are having an effect on the ocean, and the ocean is having an effect on you. Every state is an ocean state, and everything we do every day, it impacts our ocean and our world. Now, no one can do everything. But everyone can do something. And the first step to take is to become more ocean literate, and this is the place to do it: NOAA’s Ocean Service.

HOST: Thanks for listening to the NOAA Ocean Podcast. Subscribe to our pod in your podcatcher of choice and, if you like what you hear, leave us a review. It’ll really help us reach more listeners. Check our show notes for links to all of the different resources Bruce shared in this episode, and come and visit us at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

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