Engaging students in the marine sciences

by Susie Vanderburg


enny Ross, a N.A.M.E. teacher at Strawberry Vale Elementary in Victoria, BC, shared with us a creative and challenging way to engage students in the marine sciences.  When Lenny was a middle school teacher, he developed a partnership with The Rowing Center, a waterfront business on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Rowing

Center staff and Lenny created a unique opportunity for local 6th and 7th graders by offering a teacher workshop along with a one-day field trip to explore marine ecology and learn the art of rowing.  The workshop’s resources included Gloria Snively’s curriculum guide, “Salish Sea: A Handbook for Educators.”  The workshop provided a springboard for teachers to develop and teach units in marine science, preparing students for the field trip.


During the field trip, students rotated through three stations.  The first, the rowing

station, taught students how to row an eight-person boat and offered them a wonderful physical challenge; “skilled” rowers could venture to sand dollar beds or rocky shorelines around Esquimalt Lagoon. The second station, on the dock, offered hands-on exploration through plankton tows, bottom dredging, and water quality sampling. Students also got to explore marine critters in touch tanks inside the boat house.  The third station was centered around a stream-fed saltmarsh where students learned more about First Nation cultures.  Activities included explorations, art projects with native plant materials, charcoal sketching, and story telling.

Lenny’s “Eco-Rowing” program underscores the power of partnerships for marine and aquatic education.  Through collaboration with a creative community partner, Lenny was able to offer students and teachers a rich and memorable learning experience, a perfect outlet for all that middle school energy!