By Bridget Altman
R. Roger Rowe School in Rancho Santa Fe School District celebrated its 24th annual Ocean Week last week. Though this K-8 school has year round ocean themed curriculum, Ocean Week is the celebration of their knowledge with an entire festival dedicated to various aspects of marine science. The students aren’t just studying the ocean, however. They are also studying ponds and wetlands, and learning how caring for all bodies of water makes a difference for ocean health and is vital for human life.
I walked into the school office that was decorated with plush animals, streamers and paper mâché marine critters hanging from the ceiling. The lovely secretary walked me to meet with Roberta Dean, the woman behind this amazing curriculum. Roberta, the school’s Ocean Literacy Specialist, is one of the original authors of MARE, Lawrence Hall of Science’s Marine Activities, Resources and Education program. Twenty-four years ago, she encouraged ocean-enthusiast substitute teacher Stacey Halboth to get trained in the MARE curriculum and bring Ocean Week to Rancho Santa Fe. Stacey is now a full time teacher at R. Roger Rowe School working with Roberta to run this festival for the 24th year.
Throughout the week, different classrooms are set up as various stations. Classes rotate through these stations according to a schedule and based on their grade level. Each station has a different learning objective. One classroom was dedicated to teaching kindergarteners about animals that live in freshwater versus saltwater. Another classroom was dedicated to teaching fifth graders about marine pollution and ocean gyres. Third graders got to dissect a clam; fifth graders get to dissect a squid. And there was so much more!
I got to observe an amazing art lesson by Mr. Bruce Stewart where first grade students drew along as he told a story about life within a rocky shore. He explained that seabirds are important predators and sea urchins cruise along the bottom. While painting the literal picture, he encouraged students to be creative and put their own spin on things. He also demonstrated easy and effective ways to draw fish, birds and other oceanic critters to give the students the most comprehensive drawings possible.
In addition to classroom rotations, the school hosted assemblies with special guest speakers. Though I missed the third grade assembly titled “I Love a Clean San Diego”, I was able to attend the fourth and fifth grade assembly on sharks. Dr. Andrew Nosal from Scripps Institution of Oceanography gave a talk about the importance of shark conservation.
“We need to love our sharks like we love our dolphins” he exclaimed while discussing how the media portrays sharks to the public. He showed a clip of dolphins from a documentary, then a clip of sharks from the same documentary. He then showed the same clips but switched the background music. The students were giggling among themselves, completely understanding the point he was trying to make: we have these preconceived notions about sharks because of how we see the sharks on screens. Most people do not get the chance to see sharks in person and create their own mindsets based on personal experiences, so they rely on the media. This example struck a chord with everyone in the room; they now see how the media feeds into the public perception of sharks. They are now going to go home and talk to their parents about what they learned, and maybe even change their opinions of these awesome creatures.
This heightened sense of ocean awareness is exactly the point of Ocean Week. After learning about a variety of ocean topics and participating in hands on, thought-provoking activities, these students are now young agents of change. Not all of them are going to become marine biologists or professional ocean advocates. But it was clear to me, after spending only one morning at this school, that all of these students learned to appreciate the ocean a little bit more.
I would like to thank Roberta Dean for allowing me to visit this incredible school. I would also like to congratulate Roberta on being named the National Marine Educators Association’s Marine Educator of the Year in October 2015!
Extra thanks to Stacey Halboth for taking time out of her busy day to show me around the school and talk about the wonderful things Ocean Week has to offer the lucky students!
Bridget Altman is a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography studying Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. She hopes to help the world understand the importance of ocean stewardship. She has a passion for all ocean creatures, specifically apex predators. She ultimately wants to become a PR agent for sharks.
Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.