Marine/Aquatic Education: Nudibranch Population Dynamics

Marine/Aquatic Education: Nudibranch Population Dynamics

The search for sea slugs

Linking non-divers to the excitement of ocean discovery

by Elise Pletcher
Citizen Science and Volunteer Coordinator
The Marine Science and Technology Center
Highline College

The Dendronotus iris, a species of nudibranch recently found in one of the MaST Aquarium tanks.

he Nudibranch Team is a citizen science volunteer program at the Marine Science and Technology Center of Highline College. Volunteers work with Aquarium Staff to record populations of nudibranchs (colorful sea slugs). The MaST Center’s 3,000-gallon aquarium is operated on a “flow-through” model where 250 gallons of unfiltered Puget Sound water is pumped every minute through the tanks. This water brings with it several kinds of plankton, which are hard to identify and collect in the open waters of the Puget Sound, but within our tanks can be identified at the species level. Even once they are past their planktonic larval stage, many of the nudibranchs found in our aquarium are less than 1 cm in length!

This system offers the unique opportunity to record abundance of several nudibranch species throughout the year. Citizen scientists on our nudibranch team are trained to identify upwards of twenty nudibranch species, and use flashlights to track them down in our tanks. Why nudibranchs you may ask? They make an excellent species to study because each species is very distinct morphologically. Nudibranchs are the subject of a lot of macrophotography here in the Puget Sound; their bright colors and patterns make them a photogenic group of animals. Many of the animals in our aquarium are collected, but the nudibranchs come in naturally. When we see a nudibranch, it is exciting, because we get to discover them in the tanks! The thrill of not knowing what you are going to see is also a key part of what makes diving so exciting. The Nudibranch Team provides this thrill to non-divers.

The MaST’s Nudibranch Team hosts a diverse crowd with a wide range of abilities. Some are divers who already have a passion for filming nudibranchs, while others are just learning about these sea slugs for the first time. Our team is made up of mother-child duos, music teachers, retirees, and recent college graduates, all with one thing in common: their obsession with these peculiar sea slugs. You don’t need a SCUBA certification to get involved, just an interest in peering into a tank with a flashlight for an hour or two a week. Volunteers start with a 1.5 hour training in which they learn all about nudibranchs and how to identify them, including morphological traits. After the training, they’re given an identification guide, a data collection sheet, and set loose. Of all the MaST’s volunteer programs the Nudibranch Team demands the least amount of training time, it’s what helps make it so efficient.

The program originally started in 2013 when former Education Coordinator Eugene Disney and Manager Rus Higley started noticing certain nudibranchs were in the tanks in greater numbers depending on the time of year. They decided to round up a couple of volunteers to help count nudibranchs. Fast forward five years, and we are starting to see some interesting trends in nudibranch abundance emerge. Certain species are peaking in abundance at certain times of the year.

Of our most common species, each has a distinguished peak in annual abundance. Some tend to have high abundance throughout the year, but dip in the summer. While others peak in the summer months. This is interesting because nudibranchs are indicators of ocean health. If we see a huge spike in populations, something in ecosystem is likely influencing this spike. Since they occur naturally in our aquarium, we can use their abundance as a proxy for nudibranch abundance in the water at Redondo Beach. With the MaST’s four complete years’ of nudibranch population data, we have a strong baseline for tracking population changes. Nudibranch population changes can provide insight into the population health of their food sources: hydroids, sponges, and bryozoans.

We have shared this unique citizen science program at the Western Society of Naturalists Conference in 2017, Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2018, and the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators Conference this summer! Are you attending the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators Conference this summer? Check out our poster Tracking Temporal and Seasonal Changes in Nudibranch Populations from a Small Aquarium presented by the wonderful Vanessa Hunt, an Associate Professor at Central Washington University.

In the next few months, we hope to design a better classification system based on volunteer experience and expertise. This includes updating our identification keys to address species color variation. The ultimate goal for this program is to publish the data, and make it available for public use by others who wish to study invertebrate population trends in the South Puget Sound.

While the MaST is excited to have some quantitative data behind our sea slug populations, the best part of the team is still sharing in the excitement of discovering a new nudibranch –just recently, we found a Dendronotus iris, a beautifully branched nudibranch, mostly white and flecked with orange and purplish-brown. Staff and volunteers flocked to the aquarium to get a closer look at this nudibranch. It has been over a year and a half since the last time this species was spotted in one of our tanks!

The Marine Science and Technology Center is the marine laboratory of Highline College. Committed to increasing ocean literacy through community interaction, personal relations and exploration; the MaST strives to accomplish this through volunteer programs, formal college classes, and k-12 school programs.


Author: Elise Pletcher is the Citizen Science and Volunteer Coordinator at the MaST Center in Des Moines WA, where she works alongside volunteers on the Jelly, Nudibranch, Marine Mammal, and Discovery Day volunteer teams.

Ocean Plastic Pollution

Ocean Plastic Pollution

Photo credit: Joe Dowling, Sustainable Coastlines Marine Databank

Mitigating Microplastics

Development and Evaluation of a Middle School Curriculum

by Marie Kowalski and Tracy Crews



Microplastics are plastic marine debris less than five millimeters across. Microplastics are a threat to the health of our ocean. One important way to reduce microplastics in our ocean is to educate people about the issue, particularly future decision-makers. A middle school curriculum was developed using current scientific data and evaluated using the Context, Input, Process, Product (CIPP) model. The curriculum includes lessons on sources, impacts, and solutions to microplastics. Students participating in the curriculum demonstrated detailed knowledge and awareness of microplastics as well as increased feelings of personal responsibility.


Microplastics, marine debris, curriculum, middle school, curriculum evaluation


Our ocean is a valuable resource that provides important services including fisheries, recreation, and habitat for many organisms. The global health of our ocean is threatened by marine debris or litter in the ocean. Most marine debris is plastic (Thiel et al. 2013) and can range in size from abandoned boats to microplastics less than five millimeters across (Law and Thompson 2014). Marine debris is everywhere, and it is largely preventable through changes in people’s behaviors. Reducing marine debris, however, is a complex problem.

While picking up litter is important, education and scientific research are also critical components of reducing marine debris (Thompson, Moore, vom Saal, and Swan 2009). Awareness of marine issues is associated with feeling concern for the environment (Gelcich et al. 2014). Inspiring and empowering young people to take action is an important part of reducing marine debris.

This article describes a three-part middle school curriculum incorporating current research on microplastics. An overview of the curriculum development and evaluation is discussed. An excerpt from the curriculum is included with access to the full curriculum available online. While the curriculum was designed and evaluated with a formal middle school classroom in mind, the lesson activities can also be adapted for use in informal settings.



Sources and Sinks

It was estimated that more than five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the ocean and over 90% are microplastics (Eriksen et al. 2014). Most marine debris (estimated 80%) originates on land (Derraik 2002). Microplastics primarily enter the ocean when larger plastic marine debris fragments (and small plastics) are directly deposited in the ocean (Browne 2015). Small plastics in personal care products such as some face washes and toothpastes, as well as plastic fibers in laundry lint, go down household drains and are not removed by water treatment facilities (Fendall and Sewell 2009).

PHOTO – Small plastic particles in personal care products called microbeads enter household drains and are not removed by water treatment facilities. Courtesy of Marie Kowalski.

Possible Impacts

Once in the ocean, the impacts of microplastics are largely unknown. Ongoing research has identified potential impacts such as the accumulation of toxins on the surface of microplastics (Mato et al. 2001) and organisms’ ingestion of plastics. Microbes have also been shown to colonize on the surface of microplastics, possibly being transported to new parts of the ocean or sinking plastic to deeper waters (Zettler, Mincer, and Amaral-Zettler 2013).

Organisms such as plankton (Cole et al. 2013) and filter feeders such as oysters (Van Cauwenberghe and Janssen 2014) have been reported to ingest microplastics along with several species of fish and seabirds (Codina-García, Militão, Moreno, and González-Solís 2013). The impacts of microplastics after consumption is unclear. Microplastics are found from the surface to the bottom of the ocean all over the world, making their impacts on the marine environment a global concern.



For an issue that has no one solution, effective methods to address marine debris will require creativity and collaboration among many groups. Three categories of solutions include legislation, education, and individual actions.

  • Legislation: The federal Microbead-Free Act of 2015 banned the manufacture and sale of personal care products with plastic microbeads.
  • Education: Educating people about marine debris has the potential to inspire reduction of marine debris at multiple scales.
  • Individual Actions: Individual actions such as recycling and avoiding plastic products can reduce our personal plastic contribution and inspire others to change, thereby having a larger impact.




The microplastics curriculum was created through the backwards planning design of Wiggins and McTighe (2005). Lessons were grounded in enduring understandings and learning objectives aligned with middle school Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP). Lessons were developed using data provided by researchers working in the field.


The curriculum consists of three lessons designed for sixth through eighth grade students:

  1. “Bags, Bottles, and Beads: Sources of Microplastics”: Students investigate personal care products with microbeads, explore major sources of microplastics, and work with data on microplastics abundance in the Pacific Ocean.
  2. “Small Plastics, Big Problem”: Students simulate the fragmentation of plastic marine debris to determine how its surface area changes and then work with data from the Columbia River Estuary in Oregon to explore potential impacts of plastics in waterways.
  3. “Mitigating Microplastics”: Students work in groups to generate solutions to the problem of microplastics and implement their ideas. The curriculum available online contains a set of teacher lesson plans with aligned standards, materials, lesson outlines, extension and adaptation suggestions, and background content information. A presentation slide show is also available along with student handouts and an answer guide.



Evaluation Model

The evaluation of this curriculum was based on the Context, Input, Process, Product (CIPP) model (Stufflebeam and Coryn 2014). This model was chosen because of its flexibility and ability to be used as a model for both the formative and summative evaluation.

The goal of the formative evaluation was to get feedback on the initial curriculum from students and assess its usefulness to teachers. Data collected during the formative evaluation was used to revise the curriculum.

The goal of the summative evaluation was to evaluate the effectiveness of the final curriculum and document changes in participants. The summative evaluation was guided by two questions:

  1. To what extent do knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs change after participating in this microplastics curriculum?
  2. How does understanding and behavior change after participating in this microplastics curriculum?


Data Collection

Formative evaluation data was collected in two parts: pilot teaching and a teacher focus group. The pilot version of the curriculum was taught at two marine science summer camps with a total of 47 students between the ages of 12 and 15. Data on student questions and responses were collected via researcher fieldnotes and used to revise the curriculum. The revised curriculum was reviewed by agroup of four middle school teachers, a curriculum resource liaison, and a K-12 liaison at a marine education facility. A focus group was held to obtain feedback on the content, layout, usability, and likelihood that the curriculum would be used in the classroom. This feedback was also used to revise the curriculum.

Summative evaluation data was collected using pre- and post-surveys before the first lesson in the curriculum and after the last lesson of the curriculum was taught by the researcher. The survey was used with 110 students and three teachers in a total of seven classes. The concepts addressed in the survey included awareness, attitudes, beliefs, understanding, and behaviors, which are considered by Allen et al. (2008) to be components of science education “impact.” Data on student knowledge was collected using questions embedded in student materials.


Data Analysis

Quantitative data (awareness, attitudes, beliefs, numberof behaviors, and knowledge) was coded and analyzed in SPSS using descriptive and nonparametric statistical tests. Qualitative data (understanding, behaviors, and some knowledge items) was coded in Dedoose, a web application for mixed methods analysis, using a combination of in vivo (bottom up) coding and axial (top down) coding (Berg and Lune 2012).


Evaluation Results

The evaluation results are from the summative evaluation of the curriculum. Of the seven classes and 110 students who participated in the evaluation, 24% were in fifth or sixth grade, and 76% were in eighth grade. More than half (53%) of the students had not heard of microplastics before participating in the lessons.

Overall, eighth grade students scored higher on knowledge questions (defining marine debris and microplastics, articulating the abundance of microplastics, and explaining how surface area changes when an object fragments), with the exception of identifying sources of microplastics.

Additionally, all students struggled with explaining how the total surface area changed as marine debris fragmented over time. The mean score for students on this objective was 65%. The challenge was possibly due to the fact that Common Core State Standards do not include calculating the surface area until seventh grade or may reflect students’ reliance on mathematical formulas (Zacharos 2006). This section of the curriculum is most appropriate for students who are already familiar with calculating surface area.

The shifts in student misconceptions and types of behaviors suggest that the curriculum did get students thinking about the issue in a more accurate way, correcting some misconceptions.

Generally, attitudes about the scope and severity of the microplastics issue and beliefs that students could influence the problem increased after participating in the curriculum.

Students were more worried about the issue, but concern is important when combined with knowledge of solutionoriented behaviors. Self-efficacy was generally high among students, which can be an opportunity to engage them in creating and implementing solutions in the classroom and beyond. Selected evaluation results are highlighted in Table 1 below.

Concept Results


Post lessons, students scored 80% or above on every objective, except in surface area students scored 65%.



After the lessons, students did list more behaviors to reduce microplastics in the ocean than listed previously. The mean number of behaviors listed per student increased from 3.52 to 3.83.

Pre-survey behaviors were focused on managing waste (recycling and not littering).

Post-survey behaviors were focused on managing consumption (buying non-plastic items or reducing their use of plastics).



After the lessons, students tended to include fewer misconceptions (the mean number of misconceptions per student decrease from 0.51 in the pre-survey to 0.35 in the post survey) and more detailed explanations in their responses. Some students showed misconceptions after the lessons that all plastic floats and microplastics kill all marine life.



Students tended to believe they could make a difference in the microplastics issue both before and after the lessons.



After the lessons, students tended to:

  • Be significantly more worried about the issue (p < .001, Z = 3.43)
  • Think microplastics are a more challenging problem
  • Be unsure about the impacts of microplastics on people


This middle school microplastics curriculum was developed and evaluated using formative and summative techniques. Because the curriculum was evaluated in a rural, coastal school district in Oregon, the results cannot be generalized to other communities.

In this context, however, the microplastics curriculum was effective in raising awareness, knowledge, and feelings of personal responsibility among students as well as developing more specific understanding of microplastics. The first lesson from this curriculum is outlined here, with images of the supporting student materials. The full curriculum is available online. A link is available in the resources section of this article.



Next Generation Science Standards

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the

extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things. (MS-ESS3-3)


Patterns Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data. (MS-ESS3-2)

Ocean Literacy

6.D Human activity contributes to changes in the ocean and atmosphere.

6.D.18 Pollutants move from the land into the ocean as water flows through watersheds via runoff and rivers.


Enduring Understandings

Everyone’s actions have an impact (both positive and negative) on the environment.



  • Students will define marine debris and microplastics
  • Students will explain sources of microplastics


  • One 90-minute lesson


  • Two sealing jars for each group/pair
  • Water (enough to fill each jar about half full)
  • Liquid soap or face wash with microbeads
  • Liquid soap or face wash with natural exfoliators
  • Student notebook: “Bags, Bottles, and Beads”
  • Sink
  • Coffee filters
  • Jar/bucket for microbead disposal


  • Divide students into groups of 2-3
  • With two jars for each group, label half the jars “A” and the other half “B”
  • Place about a tablespoon of soap in each jar
  • Soap with microbeads in jar “A”
  • Soap with natural exfoliators in jar “B”
  • Have a disposal jar/bucket for microbead soap when the activity is over




Say: Look around the room and silently find as many plastic objects as you can in 10 seconds…go! Time students for 10 seconds, then have students share some of the objects they identified.


Ask: Raise your hand if you agree that there is a lot of plastic in this classroom? If you agree that we use a lot of plastic in our daily lives?

Say: We use plastic every day, and many of the plastics are single-use. They are designed to be thrown away after being used once. We might not realize which products have plastic, and we don’t always know what happens to them after they are thrown away.


Explore—”Soap, Suds, and…Plastic?”

Say: Some products with plastics might surprise you. First, we will talk a little about plastic itself, and then you will have a chance to investigate for yourself. Students complete guided notes in their notebooks.


Presentation: Slides include the text from the notebook with the blanks filled in.

Say: Polyethylene is the plastic most microbeads are made of, and you can identify products with microbeads by looking at the ingredients for polyethylene. Repeat after me, “polyethylene.”

Handout: an “A” and “B” jar to each student group, don’t tell them which soap is which.


Students compare the size, shape, color, and any additional properties of the two soaps to determine which one contains plastic.

Courtesy of Marie Kowalski



As an alternative to the first activity “Soap Suds and… Plastic,” consider completing the challenge using just face wash with natural exfoliators. Have students observe and draw the particles, and then explain that some soaps used to have plastic instead of the natural material. Ask students to imagine that those particles are plastic to get an idea of the number of microbeads that might enter the ocean from one product. Emphasize that there are other sources of microplastics that enter waterways, including plastic fibers from clothing.

Students read and follow the directions in their notebooks.

Presentation: Slides also have activity directions for reference.

  • Students first make observations of the two jars (color, texture, size and shape of particles, etc.).
  • Students fill jars halfway with water, close it tightly, and shake the jars to dissolve the soap (there shouldn’t be any soap stuck to the bottom).
  • Students write down what they observe and draw pictures in their notebooks of how the particles behave inside the soaps. Students answer the questions in their notebooks.

Ask: What did you notice that was different between the two jars? How did the particles in the soaps behave? Which one do you think has plastic in it? What evidence do you have? Reveal the answer, that “A” has microplastics in it!

Misconception Alert! Plastic microbeads will float in the water, but not all microplastics float! Microplastics can be found at many depths, including the ocean floor. Before moving on to the next part of the lesson, clarify that while the plastic microbeads in the investigation floated, not all microplastics float in the ocean.

  • Students read the “newspaper clipping” from their notebook and answer the question.

Discuss: Why is the problem of microplastics not solved? Do you think this is a helpful law? Why or why not?

Debrief: “How do microplastics make it to the ocean?”

Say: One of the reasons the microplastics problem is not solved by this law is that there are many other ways microplastics get into the ocean.

Presentation: Slides show “main sources of microplastics.” See student example for notes. Students complete guided notes from their notebooks.

Say: There are two main ways that microplastics enter the ocean. One is directly as small pieces (show microplastics definition and have a student read it aloud). Plastics in toothpaste, face wash, and laundry lint can go directly into the ocean. Most microplastics are from larger plastic marine debris items that are fragmented once they get to the ocean (show marine debris definition and have a student read it aloud). Nurdles are small plastic pieces used in factories to make plastic products.

Practice: “Real Researcher: Angel White”

Say: Now that we know about microplastics and where they come from, we are going to learn about a researcher who studies microplastics.

This diagram describes the flow of the curriculum evaluation, beginning with the needs assessment and ending with the dissemination of the curriculum. Courtesy of Marie Kowalski


Students will read “Real Researcher: Angel White” from their student notebook as an introduction to her data. Students will answer the questions about Angel’s data. See student example for correct responses. Answers are based on the data table and reading.

Ask: Why do you think scientists study microplastics in the ocean? What should scientists like Angel do with their results?

Clean Up

To keep microbeads from going down the sink drain, you can use a coffee filter to remove the microbeads from the soap. You can dry them and put them in a container to show the amount of plastic in the product!




Mitigating Microplastics:

Marine Debris

NOAA Marine Debris Program: http://marinedebris.noaa. gov/info/plastic.html

Study on the abundance of plastic marine debris: http://

Article on plastic fibers in laundry:


National Science Foundation Report: /framework-evaluating-impactsbroadening-participation-projects_1101.pdf



Allen, S., P.B. Campbell, L.D. Dierking, B.N. Flagg, C. Garibay, R. Korn, D.A. Ucko. (2008). Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects. (A. J. Friedman, Ed.). National Science Foundation. Retrieved from

Berg, B.L., and H. Lune. (2012). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Browne, M.A. (2015). Sources and pathways of microplastics to habitats. In Marine Anthropogenic Litter. M. Bergmann, L. Gutow, and M. Klages (Eds.). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Codina-García, M., T. Militão, J. Moreno, and J. González-Solís. (2013). Plastic debris in Mediterranean seabirds. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 77(1-2): 220-226.

Cole, M., P. Lindeque, E. Fileman, C. Halsband, R. Goodhead, J. Moger, and T.S. Galloway. (2013). Microplastic ingestion by zooplankton. Environmental  Science & Technology, 47(12): 6646–6655.

Derraik, J.G.B. (2002). The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: A review. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 44(9): 842-852.

Eriksen, M., L.C.M. Lebreton, H.S. Carson, M. Thiel, C.J. Moore, J.C. Borerro, and J. Reisser. (2014). Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans: More than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea. PLoS ONE, 9(12): e111913.

Fendall, L.S., and M.A. Sewell. (2009). Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: Microplastics in facial cleansers. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58(8): 1225-1228.

Gelcich, S., P. Buckley, J.K. Pinnegar, J. Chilvers, I. Lorenzoni, G. Terry, and C.M. Duarte. (2014). Public awareness, concerns, and priorities about anthropogenic impacts on marine environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(42): 15042-15047.

Glatthorn, A.A., F. Boschee, B.M. Whitehead, and B.F. Boschee. (2015). Curriculum Leadership: Strategies for Development and Implementation (4th ed.). New York, NY: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Law, K.L., and R.C. Thompson. (2014). Microplastics in the seas. Science, 345(6193): 144-145.

Mato, Y., T. Isobe, H. Takada, H. Kanehiro, C. Ohtake, and T. Kaminuma. (2001). Plastic resin pellets as a transport medium for toxic chemicals in the marine environment.  Environmental Science & Technology, 35(2): 318-324.

Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, 21 U.S.C. § 301.

Thiel, M., I.A. Hinojosa, L. Miranda, J.F. Pantoja, M.M. Rivadeneira, and N. Vásquez. (2013). Anthropogenic marine debris in the coastal environment: A multi-year comparison between coastal waters and local shores. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 71(1–2):307-316.

Thompson, R. C., C.J. Moore, F.S. vom Saal, and S.H. Swan. (2009). Plastics, the environment and human health: Current consensus and future trends. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526): 2153-2166.

Van Cauwenberghe, L., and C.R. Janssen. (2014). Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption. Environmental Pollution, 193: 65-70.

Wiggins, G., and J. McTighe. (2005). Understanding by Design (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Zacharos, K. (2006). Prevailing educational practices for area measurement and students’ failure in measuring areas. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 25(3):224-239.

Zettler, E. R., T.J. Mincer, and L.A. Amaral-Zettler. (2013). Life in the “plastisphere”: Microbial communities on plastic marine debris. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(13): 7137-7146.


MARIE KOWALSKI is a recent graduate of the Marine Resource Management program at Oregon State University. Her research interests include incorporating authentic science in classroom settings and communicating marine science.

TRACY CREWS oversees Oregon Sea Grant’s marine education programs at Hatfield Marine Science Center. Tracy holds a bachelor of science degree in marine biology, a master of science degree in marine science, and has worked in fisheries research, resource management, and education for over 25 years.


This article originally appeared in Currents, the journal of the National Marine Educators Association. Reprinted with permission.

Teaching Climate Change (and other resources you should know about)

Teaching Climate Change (and other resources you should know about)


1. Climate Change: Connections and Solutions

Facing the Future offers this free two-week curriculum unit for middle school and high school which encourage students to think critically about climate change and collaborate to devise solutions.  Students learn about climate change within a systems framework, examining interconnections among environmental, social, and economic issues.

2. Climate Change Teacher Resources

Windows to the Universe provides interlinked learning resources that support a variety of topics, including online content for browsing or to support an introductory online course on climate change, teacher professional development resources, classroom activities, and online interactives.

3. ClimateChange LIVE! – Resources and Online Webinars

The U.S. Forest Service and partners offer this website to bring climate learning to you through a series of webcasts, webinars, and online climate education resources.  The materials include climate education resources and programs gathered from 17 federal agency and NGO partners.  The National Wildlife Federation is hosting a series of six webinars in connection with the ClimateChange LIVE! materials; you may register for one or more webinars at a time.

4. Teaching Climate

Teaching Climate offers a searchable database of reviewed K-12 climate education resources.   The resources have been reviewed by subject experts for scientific accuracy, pedagogical soundness, and usability.  Topics include Climate Systems, Measuring & Modeling Climate, Human Responses to Climate, and more.

5. Citizen Science: Project FeederWatch

Those interested in citizen science can join the thousands of FeederWatchers across North America who count the birds at their feeders from November through early April.  All participants receive the project’s annual summary publication and the Cornell Lab’s quarterly.  New project participants receive a bird-identification poster, bird-feeding information, and instructional materials.

6. CMOP: Studying Coastal Margins

The Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction, an NSF Science and Technology Center partnership of Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, University of Washington and others, focuses on coastal margins.  The website offers a collection of activities and curricula that can help you use their data resources.  Check out the materials on coastal hypoxia, vertical density gradients, drifters and currents, and more.  Some of the materials are available in both English and Spanish.

7. Urban EE Resources for High School Teachers

The LEAF Anthology of Urban Environmental Education is available online.  The anthology  is a collection of lessons and activities designed to help high school educators infuse urban environmental themes into their curriculum.  Sections include Natural Cities, Human Cities, and Evolving Cities.

Marine Science and Technology Camp Opportunity for Students

Marine Science and Technology Camp Opportunity for Students


Ocean Watch 4-H Marine Ambassadors Camp- June 30- July 5, 2013- Application deadline May 24, 2013

Oregon State University 4-H has received $30,000 funding for a 4-H Marine Science and Technology camp for 57 youth entering grades 10-12. The Application Deadline is May 24! There is a $35 application fee, otherwise a full scholarship is provided for selected youth for 6 days at OSU and Hatfield and on the 64-foot sailing research vessel Ocean Watch. You can see more information about Ocean Watch’s 25,000-mile Around the Americas research voyage at this link

The six day Ocean Watch 4-H Marine Ambassadors Camp will take place on the Oregon State University (OSU) campus for two nights and in Newport at the Hatfield Marine Science Center for three nights. Transportation is provided between OSU and Hatfield. On the OSU campus youth will learn to be 4-H Marine Ambassadors, tour labs, participate in science classes and work with a team to construct Remote Operated Vehicles. In Newport campers will be introduced to the 64-foot sailing research vessel Ocean Watch.

oceanwatchWe will sail on Ocean Watch to access marine animal and plant survey sites, and collect water samples. She will also be the center piece of our public information day on the 4th of July, where Ocean Watch 4-H Marine Ambassadors will practice their newly acquired skills to teach the public about our oceans. The 4-H Marine Ambassador’s Mission is to raise awareness about the health of the ocean and to show how changes are impacting various ecosystems and human life.

There is more information and the application located at

5 Ideas, Programs, or Resources You Should Know About

5 Ideas, Programs, or Resources You Should Know About


1. Next Generation Science Standards

NSTA offers the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards.  These standards establish learning expectations in science for K–12 students combining three important dimensions—science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts.


2. Discover Your World with NOAA

This free activity book introduces The Essential Principles of Climate Science and will help users learn about Earth’s climate system, the factors that drive and change it, and more.  You can download the full activity book or individual activities.  Sections focus on exploring, understanding, and protecting the earth.  Check out Make Your Own Astrolabe, Wooly Magma, and Endangered Species Origami.


3. Eco-Schools USA Climate Change Connections

National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA and NASA offer this comprehensive high school curriculum using NASA Earth Observing Satellites data.  Students use environmental audits, action planning, data collection, and more to experience the Earth system as a whole.


4. The Story in the Ice: Glaciers and Climate Change

This climate change initiative offers the first set of lesson plans in a middle school curriculum being developed by the Earth Day Network and Extreme Ice Survey to educate, engage, and mobilize students around climate change.  The two-day set of lessons are correlated to national learning standards and seek to engage students in interdisciplinary learning experiences.


5. Global Schoolyard Bioblitz

Project Noah is once again teaming up with the National Environmental Education Foundation and National Geographic Education for the Global Schoolyard Bioblitz campaign.  Teachers and students document the wildlife encountered in and around their school sites.  The National Geographic website offers tools for any bioblitz, and students can upload their data to the Project Noah website.  Be sure to check out the educator resources.

Learning Eco-Literacy (Lessons from an Orca Grandmother) Pt. 3

Learning Eco-Literacy (Lessons from an Orca Grandmother) Pt. 3

by Sally Hodson, Ed.D.
author of Granny’s Clan, published by Dawn Publications
See Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

killerwhalesboat Part 3: Tell a Story
How do we prepare young people for the 21st century challenge of caring for our planet so that it can sustain future generations of plants, animals and humans? In short, how do we educate our kids to be eco-literate?

To be literate in the language of our planet, we need to understand how life on Earth functions and how we interact with it. And we need tools to help our heads to think, our hearts to feel, and our hands to act.

This month, we’ll add Tell a Story to our Eco-Literacy Toolkit


Tell a Story
”Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Native American Proverb

We are all storytellers. Stories are part of every human culture. Stories connect us with others across time, place, culture and species. History tells us stories about our past. Science brings us stories about our natural world and the plants and animals who share it with us. Movies, books and TV fill our lives with stories

Think of your own life as a story. How do you tell your story to others? When we share and listen to stories, we integrate our left brain’s language with our right brain’s emotions and imagination. A great story helps us understand the world and gives meaning to our lives.

Where can we find powerful stories for our Eco-Literacy Toolkit?
1. Explore natural places where you live. What plants and animals share these places with you? What are their stories?
2. Read stories about plants (maple tree), animals (prairie dog town), ecosystems (kelp forest), ecological processes (salmon life cycle) and ecological changes (re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park).
3. Look for stories that inspire hope for the future (saving an endangered species).
4. Find stories of people who help us learn about the natural world (Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, Wangari Maathai, Rachel Carson).
5. Watch nature and wildlife documentaries that tell visual stories

How can we use these stories to develop ecological literacy?
1. Write Stories
– Write and illustrate a Picture Book that tells a story about nature, a plant or an animal.
– Write the Autobiography of an animal or plant. Imagine their life story and tell it from their point of view.

2. Tell Stories
– Story Circle – Choose a nature topic. With a circle of students, the first student starts the story with a sentence. Each student adds another sentence to the story. Continue until everyone has a turn and the story is completed.
– Magic Story Box – Fill a shoebox with natural objects (stone, leaf, feather, seashell). Each student picks a different object from the box. Students spend several minutes getting to know their object and then each tells a story about their object.
– Describe Me – Select a natural object (stone, leaf, feather, etc.) and place in the center of circle of students. Each student offers a different word to describe the object.
– Story Treasure Hunt – Select a picture book story about an animal or nature. Divide students into two groups. Group 1 writes out each sentence of the story on a different index card, hides the cards out of sequence and draws a treasure map to show where to find the cards. Group 2 uses the treasure map to locate the cards and then assembles them in the correct sequence to tell the story.

3. Create Visual Stories
– Design a shoebox Diorama to show plants and animals that live in a natural place.
– Paint a Mural that tells a story about a natural place.
– Make a classroom Story Quilt. Select a nature topic and ask each student to design their own story square. Assemble to create story quilt.
– Create a Comic Strip graphic story about nature.

4. Dramatize Stories
– Produce a Puppet Show about an animal’s life or a nature story.
– Create a Reader’s Theatre Script or Play about your favorite animal or nature story.

Many free downloadable activities are available at this website relating to Dawn books (go to the Teacher’s/Librarians tab on the website and select Downloadable Activities from the drop-down menu). Activities related to Granny’s Clan: A Tale of Wild Orcas that show how to use story include: .
– All in the Family (see Family Totem Pole and Family Story Quilt)
– Salmon Journey (see Salmon Life Story)
– Great Grannies (see Granny’s Life Story) and
– Tell Me a Story (Orca Rangers Comic Strip, Story Treasure Hunt and Story Circle).

Dr. Hodson is a K-12 teacher and a trainer of teachers, and was executive director of The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, WA.