Georgia Aquarium Teacher Workshop
DISCOVERY Vessels River Queen & Sea Experience
Miami & Fort Lauderdale, Florida
June 22-25, 2023
From June 22-25, 2023, The International SeaKeepers Society hosted the second annual Teacher Workshop in collaboration with Georgia Aquarium. SeaKeepers’ education team was joined by 10 middle and high school teachers from nine different counties in Georgia for a weekend of marine science educational activities. We began our weekend with introductions and a presentation from Miami Waterkeeper’s Educational Outreach Manager, Erin Cover. Erin introduced the teachers to Biscayne Bay and the creatures that inhabit it and identified many sources of pollution such as dredging, sewage leaks, and fertilizer runoff.
Now equipped with some background knowledge, we headed out on Biscayne Bay for our second day aboard DISCOVERY Yacht River Queen. The teachers were able to experience a traditional floating classroom, during which we discussed the impacts of urbanization on the bay’s ecosystems and were even followed by a curious family group of dolphins. We entered Little River and observed the difference in the appearance of the water in the river and the bay. We collected a water sample from Little River and used our EarthEcho kits to test the water for parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen level and turbidity. After completing our testing and discussing our findings, we headed over to Pelican Island, a picnic island in the bay that is frequently polluted due to a lack of waste management. With a quick coastal cleanup we removed 18 pounds of trash from the island and discussed major observations about what we found in comparison to what we use in our own daily lives. Once back on land, we stopped by the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station to say hello to Maggie the Opossum and to learn about the organization’s history and current native species rehabilitation efforts. We finished our day with a presentation on fun and accessible science lessons that could be adapted for middle and high school classroom or field trip use.
To start the third day of our workshop, we headed up to Sea Experience in Fort Lauderdale, where we boarded a glass bottom snorkeling boat and headed out to Twin Ledges reef. We spent a couple hours at the site snorkeling and practicing species identification and abundance counts using introductory information we learned about marine physiology and reef ecology. Using fish ID cards, the teachers were encouraged to quantify the amount of species they saw and try to identify them. Many species of marine creatures were spotted including Bermuda chubs, parrotfish, angelfish, lobsters, and even rays! Despite the diminished health of Florida barrier reefs, some hard and soft corals were observed, though many looked like they might be infected with tissue damaging diseases influenced by urban pollution and climate change.
After an amazing day on the water, we wrapped up our day with a discussion titled “Bringing It Home” aimed at applying the concepts learned to the environments in Georgia that the teachers live and work in. Many teachers shared the challenges and limitations they face in their classrooms, including concerns of limited accessibility to resources that would allow them to take their students out of the classroom and into the environment. We wrapped up our conversation by sharing tools and resources that would better allow these teachers to engage their students in marine science, conservation, and field activities in their local environments.
To conclude our weekend, SeaKeepers and the Georgia Aquarium brought the cohort of teachers to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, where they were able to explore the exhibits and the aquarium in order to learn a bit more about the South Florida ecosystems they had just spent the weekend exploring.
We had an amazing weekend with all of the teachers we hosted, and we look forward to maintaining our connections with them in order to support them in educating a new generation of students about the importance of marine conservation!
To teach middle and high school science teachers in Georgia marine science activities and lesson plans that they can apply in their classrooms in order to inspire their students.