Investing in the Next Generation of Ocean Stewards through Education Alliance Partnerships

By Chloe Bean, Grants Manager

On June 30, 2018, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will complete its 17th year of Ocean Exploration Education Alliance Partnerships. The Foundation sponsors this program in cooperation with NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). Through these partnerships, educators across the country receive training on how to integrate NOAA exploration science, technology, engineering, and mathematics concepts and curriculums into their classrooms.

In June 2017, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $201,500 to 14 selected Education Alliance Partners in order to fund the execution of Exploring the Deep Ocean with NOAA professional workshops. The 2017-2018 partner organizations include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and 13 aquariums from Hawaii to Massachusetts. Each partner facility is expected to plan and host two workshop sessions, for a total of 28 sessions in the 2017-2018 program year. Over 300 educators participated in workshops since June 2017, with more workshops scheduled before the close of the current round in June.

This year’s workshop curriculums were based on expeditions completed by the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer, the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to explore the world’s oceans for purposes of scientific discovery. The Okeanos Explorer is equipped with broadband satellite communication technology to connect the ship with audiences ashore, and all over the world, in real time. This year’s Education Alliance Partnership workshops provided participants with the opportunity to communicate directly, through video conferencing technology, with some of the scientists and staff members aboard the Okeanos Explorer.

In addition to an introduction to the Okeanos Explorer, educators participated in lessons and group activities that they could implement in their own classrooms. Activities and lessons highlighted in the Education Alliance workshops are aimed at students in three age groups, grades 5-6, 7-8, and 9-12. In each workshop, educators first participated in a general introductory lesson for all age groups. This activity exposes students to modern reasons for ocean exploration, including climate change, energy, and ocean health.

In What’s the Big Deal?, a lesson aimed at high school students, educators constructed a model of the molecule methane hydrate out of candy and toothpicks. This activity aims to help bring chemistry to life for students by having them define and describe the compound, learn about how scientists believe it forms, and how it directly impacts our lives.



Teachers participating in the What’s the Big Deal? methane hydrate activity at a Waikiki Aquarium Education Alliance workshop. Photo courtesy of NOAA OER

Teachers participating in the What’s the Big Deal? methane hydrate activity at a Georgia Aquarium Education Alliance workshop. Photo courtesy Heidi Turcotte, Georgia Aquarium










One of the lessons aimed at grades 5-6, Invent a Robot!, focuses on engineering design. In this activity students learn how underwater robots are used in scientific exploration. As part of the demonstration, educators in the Education Alliance workshops learned to build a simple robotic arm. The educators will be able to take this activity back to their classrooms to give their students introductory engineering experience and allow them to design a potential solution for an ocean exploration problem.

Building robot arms in the Invent a Robot! activity at Hatfield Marine Science Center. Photo courtesy of NOAA OER.

Building robot arms in the Invent a Robot! activity at the Waikiki Aquarium. Photo courtesy of NOAA OER.










The Foundation and our partners at NOAA are committed to continuing programs that teach educators new ways to engage their students and incorporate oceanic and atmospheric concepts into their classrooms. For each teacher participating in the Foundation-funded Exploring the Deep Ocean with NOAA educator workshops, hundreds of students will be exposed to expeditions and discoveries made by NOAA scientists. In coming years the Foundation looks forward to working with NOAA to expand this program to new Education Alliance Partners.