This issue celebrates GOMI’s Learning to Steward the Gulf (L2SG) six-year participation in NOAA’s Gulf of Maine ocean drifters study. We have included five articles, along with John Halloran’s Naturalist’s Notes, that provide different perspectives and experiences of students, teachers, and scientists variously involved in the GOMI/NOAA partnership. We hope you will share their enthusiasm and sense of reward in being part of the on-going NOAA study. Jim Manning, our “go to person” on the Gulf drifter project, has dedicated much of his professional life to studying and modeling the currents of the Gulf. With equal dedication, Jim has engaged many students and their teachers, elementary through high school, in the study of the Gulf’s currents. The data from their projects have called attention to the important role currents play in ensuring the biodiversity of the Gulf along with their unheralded contribution to the economy of humans living within the Gulf’s watershed.
GOMI first connected with Jim at a teacher workshop he was conducting in a Massachusetts North Shore community. For GOMI the timing was serendipitous. We had over a decade of experience providing planning, technical and financial support to local community-based stewardship projects (CBS)*. Our mantra was and is, “act locally and think bioregionally.” Our local CBS projects, ranging from Cape Cod, MA to the southwest tip of Nova Scotia, were diverse and vibrant. To buttress the “think bioregionally” theme we evaluated and emphasized the connection of the local to the bioregional at our weeklong summer residential workshops. We sensed, however, the need to deepen students understanding of this connection required a Gulf-wide project(s) that had meaning to all our teams. We sought a bioregional, community-based effort that had scientific merit and importance to the region. Meeting with Jim, and hearing about his drifter project and his readiness, indeed eagerness, to engage students in his work was our eureka moment. We were on-board! Shortly thereafter, GOMI BOD implemented a strategic shift in emphasis from the earlier youth-to-community team model, described above, to a teacher-professional development model that included elementary through high school teachers. The shift was made in a desire to bring CBS experience to more students and classrooms. The initiative was named, Learning to Steward the Gulf (L2SG) and as the articles attest, it has been successful.
Jim Manning, in his article, GOMI Contributing to Our Local Ocean Observing System: Drifters, provides historical and scientific background to this unique Gulf-wide CBS effort and expert testimony to the contributions being made by students. Included in Jim’s article, are links to the NOAA student drifter database. John Halloran, in his Notes from the Naturalist, tells the tale of how two schools, one upstream, New Hampshire’s Bethlehem Elementary, and other downstream, Nock Middle School, Newburyport, Massachusetts, and how they discovered, though the drifters, their eco-interdependence. You may read more about Bethlehem Elementary in Bryan Smith’s article, Bethlehem Go with the Flow Watershed Unit and the Nock Middle School from teachers Kristen Vincente, Mary Kate Allen and Brad Balkus in their article, Ocean Drifters: Bringing Technology Engineering into the Science Classroom. In addition, there is the thrilling turtle rescue saga told by Olivia Bourque, Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. These are but a few examples of the many ways in which GOMI and NOAA have collaborated to bring youthful wonder and enthusiasm to the stewardship of their bioregional place.
Also, you will want to read the articles from two GOMI alums, Dominic Noce, currently a freshman at the University of Montana majoring in wildlife biology, and Kelly Conway, a senior at Columbia University studying earth and environmental engineering. Dominic’s article is a follow-up to his earlier coyote article and Kelly’s is a shortened version of her senior paper on stormwater management in the Merrimac River watershed. Both demonstrate early exposure influence on career commitments. All our students do not choose to major in environmental or ecological studies. Most, however, gain a deep appreciation of and commitment to citizen stewardship. The importance of the latter cannot be underestimated.
Combined, these articles illustrate the power, beauty, and application of the CBS approach and why it should be included as a part of K-12 education. It makes sound educational sense and offers insurance for meeting environmental challenges like climate change. Meeting environmental challenges requires generations of scientifically informed citizen stewards committed to maintaining a healthy planet. CBS is an effective, not the only, way of doing both. The approach requires administrative commitment, teacher support, such as professional development opportunities and rewards for performance along with minimal modification of school curricula and scheduling. The physical place, that is the community bio-space, is accessible to any school any anywhere. It is just outside the door.
In closing, I emphasize three points regarding CBS that this issue illustrates:
1. The approach is an effective learning method to teach environmental sciences to elementary through high school students.
2. Learning young through one’s home community may lead to a lifetime commitment to stewardship locally and regionally.
3. Early exposure to science and the environment is an effective means encouraging youth to choose carriers in related fields.
We will speak more to these three points in future issues. Your thoughts are welcome and may be submitted to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Community-based stewardship (CBS) emphasizes:
1. Learning to stewardship through immersion in community-rooted, structured, experiences that emphasize unique biota, history, culture, economy, literature, and art of a specific place.
2. Civic engagement, the act(s) of doing something concrete and beneficial to improve, understand, remedy, protect and promote a healthy ecosystem.
3. Connecting local community efforts to the larger bioregion through acting locally while thinking bioregionally.
John P. Terry, founded the Gulf of Maine Institute in 1999. John was Editor-in-Chief, CYD (Community Youth Development) Journal from Aug. 1994 to Nov. 2002. John has broad teaching and administrative experience at the university level including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969-1984, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 1985-1992, and Union College, Schenectady, NY, 1964-1969. John received national recognition in 2006 when selected as Civic Ventures,’ Lead with Experience Program 2006 Purpose Prize Fellows. He is also a 2008 recipient of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Visionary Award.