Beginning with a Canadian Millennium Grant in 2000, every June, teachers and their students from north coastal New England and the Canadian Maritimes, under aegis of the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI), have convened to share their love and knowledge of the Gulf of Maine and hone their place-based education (PBE)approaches to stewarding it. Changing venues between New England and the Canadian Maritimes yearly provided much opportunity to experience and share the natural and human diversity of the watershed. Bonds between Canadians and Americans formed and joint activities, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Gulf of Maine coastal Drifters project, flourished.
This experience was productive and meaningful to students and their adult mentors. The numbers of young people being reached were, however, small compared to the need. After a year of studying how to reach more young people, the GOMI Board of Directors concluded that a shift from a youth team approach to a teacher professional development one would remedy the problem. While the shift would lessen the quality of experience for individual students, the numbers to be reached by the new form of place-based education (PBE) would more than compensate. This is the year of that shift from a few students (45-50), fortunate to be able to be selected, to engagement of much more through PBE classrooms. The challenge, quite simply, is two-fold: 1) make the PBE experience deep and broad for each classroom setting and 2) simultaneously maintain and exceed vigorous experiential/academic quality. This is the L2SG challenge.
The answer to the challenge began this summer with two summer conferences. The first conference, held at Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, for our newly recruited New England teachers (11 in all), and the second at Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia for our newly recruited Maritimes teachers (6 in all). Support for these efforts included grants from NOAA, TD Bank Friends of the Environment Foundation, Toward Sustainability Foundation, Harken Foundation, and the New England Biolabs Foundation.
Both conferences focused on L2SG GOMI aims to bring the excitement and joy of PBE to the classroom. Both emphasized sharing and developing PBE ideas and approaches to prepare students to meet climate change challenges to the Gulf of Maine and its watershed. Results included an agreement to:
Participate in building professional development sessions/experiences to hone PBE skills
Share curricula, lessons, and ideas within and across jurisdictions
Offer support/solutions to teachers experiencing roadblocks to their efforts to bring PBE to their schools
Convene a joint conference of American and Canadian teachers in Nova Scotia in the summer of 2017, and
Engage in on-going research, such as NOAA’s ocean drifters, Acadia University’s Tidal Energy Institute and the Ecosystems Center Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Some of the American teachers were already engaged in GOMI's partnership with NOAA's coastal drifter projects. (See below, Alison Trimper discussion of her and her colleague's ocean drifter experiences.) Hearing of the value and excitement around that project, our Canadian colleagues opted to join the effort and share data from across the Minas Basin and Bay of Fundy. Four drifters were launched in Minas Basin at the summer workshop. They are now part of the NOAA database and tracked by Nova Scotian students. Other teachers presented alternative ways for bringing MWEEs, (see Emily Flaherty's article in Issue 1 on MWEES) to their students. Included in these are tidal energy and invasive/migratory species. These are efforts supported by research being done Dr. Anna Redden at Acadia University’s Estuarine Research Centre and Tidal Energy Institute, and the Dr. Anne Giblin, Ecosystems Center Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The design is simple: bring on-going scientific research to students in the classroom and students to science in the field. It is, as Emily Flaherty wrote in Issue 1, through such experiences that the students build a love of science and the environment.
GOMI’s place-based (PBE) approach embraces NOAA’s meaningful watershed educational experience (MWEE) and:
· PROMOTES LEARNING THROUGH RIGOROUS EXPERIENCE ROOTED IN THE COMMUNITY AND ITS UNIQUE HISTORY, ENVIRONMENT, CULTURE, ECONOMY, LITERATURE, AND ART
· Emphasizes civic engagement, the ACT (s) of doing something concrete and beneficial to improve, understand, remedy and promote