Teacher Workshops

A woman blows through a straw into a tub filled with water
Teachers participate in an oil spill simulation during the 3-day workshop.
NPS Photo/J. Pfeiffenberger

"Courses like this just absolutely, totally rejuvenate me." 2018 Floating Teacher Workshop participant.

The Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center offers two different types of teacher workshops each year. One is held primarily in the classroom and lasts a full weekend. The second offering extends over the course of several days, and takes place both in the classroom and in the field.

Classroom Workshop

Since 2004, the OASLC has been offering a 3-day teacher workshop in collaboration with the Alaska SeaLife Center. Typically held in Seward, Alaska, this workshop provides educators with first-hand knowledge of current marine issues and research in Alaska. Workshop instructors also present curriculum ideas for sharing this information with students.

A primary goal of these workshops is to allow educators to interact directly with the field researchers in the classroom. A further goal is to make the science tangible and relevant through hands-on activities and experiences.

Past workshop topics include the Changing Tides Project; a study of the link between coastal bears, intertidal invertebrates and humans, and the Nearshore Monitoring Program; aimed at better understanding change in the intertidal ecosystem.

Two people on a beach look closely at a small invertebrate.
Checking out invertebrates of the intertidal zone during the Floating Teacher Workshop. NPS Photo/D. Ochs

Field-Based Workshop

In 2018 the OASLC added a second, more intensive, learning opportunity. The weeklong Floating Teacher Workshop takes place primarily from an ocean-going vessel along the coast of Kenai Fjords National Park. The focus of this practicum is to actively engage educators in marine science research as it is being conducted. Every day is different in this “full-body” encounter with field work, where teachers may find themselves digging for clams in the intertidal muck, crawling over rocky outcroppings to inventory mussels, or upending stones on a beach in search of sea stars. Other activities may include a guided hike through a recently glaciated valley, a kayak excursion in the fjords or a crash course in identifying intertidal invertebrates.

Like the 3-day course, the goal of the Floating Teacher Workshop is to enhance educators’ understanding of marine science in Alaska’s national parks, and to empower them to share this knowledge with students. Partners in this effort include Alaska Geographic, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council, Kenai Fjords National Park, the Southwest Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network, and the US Geological Survey.

Helpful Details

The target audience for both workshops varies from year to year, ranging from K-12th Grade teachers. Priority is given to Alaska educators, however instructors from outside the state are also welcome. For information about upcoming workshops, fees and registration, contact OASLC Education Specialist Jim Pfeiffenberger.

Read on to learn about past workshops:
Teachers stand on a hillside overlooking a glacier
Workshop participants embark on a journaling activity in the field. NPS Photo/B. Pister

2018 Floating Teacher Workshop

In June, 8 teachers worked directly with researchers in the field in Kenai Fjords National Park, helping to gather data as part of a long term monitoring program that is aimed at understanding the nearshore ecosystem better and detecting change over in time in that ecosystem. The workshop was a collaborative effort of the National Park Service, Prince William Sound Regional Citizen's Advisory Council, and Alaska Geographic. For a first-hand account of their experiences, check out the video created on the trip. Audio described version.

What did the participants have to say about it? Here are just a few comments:

"I mean, I was out there knee deep in the mussels and kelp. It was great!"

"I've got a fresh new energy."

"Courses like this make me really grow as a teacher."

Workshop participants dissecting razor clams
Workshop participants dissecting razor clams

NPS/Jim Pfeiffenberger

2017 Teacher Workshop

Some 23 middle and high school teachers dug into the details of the Changing Tides Research Project at the 2017 OASLC Teacher Workshop. Literally. Among many participatory activities, attendees dissected razor clams to examine bivalve biology and better understand their role in Alaska’s dynamic intertidal ecosystem. The workshop featured a stimulating mix of instructional lessons and interactive activities designed to expose teachers to this 3-year project analyzing the link between bears, sea otters and bi-valves in Katmai and Lake Clark national parks.

Highlights of the weekend included a lively presentation about bear research by USGS biologist Grant Hilderbrand, and an insightful introduction to intertidal invertebrates by OASLC Director Benjamin Pister. Participants took virtual flight over Lake Clark’s magnificent mudflats to locate bears, got closeups of the intertidal zone through a camera hanging from the neck of a brown bear, extracted DNA from a banana and were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the SeaLife Center. A brainstorming session and review of online resources provided valuable opportunities to share lesson plans and activities for the classroom. The Alaska SeaLife Center will use the teacher input to develop lessons as part of a curriculum-based “Virtual Field Trip” focused on Changing Tides.

Comments from attendees:
“Thanks for all of the resources! I love that we have access to the data sets….can’t wait to apply this in my classroom.”

“I learned so much which is so CRITICAL for teachers, to feel like authentic learners. Refreshing and inspiring.”

“I felt I was given ample guidance for incorporating this into the classroom.”

“I am believer in content-rich material in all subjects, and am very grateful for not only the access to these resources, but the opportunity to experience them as a student. Thank you!”
NPS staff at annual teacher workshop

NPS/Jim Pfeiffenberger

October 2015 Teacher Workshop

On October 16, 2015, 19 teachers from around the state gathered in Seward to learn about the Ocean Literacy Principles at the annual Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center's (OASLC) Teacher Workshop. The workshop this year targeted middle and high school teachers and presented background information on the principles as well as ideas for how to incorporate them into the classroom.

A wide array of Information on national parks was presented during the workshop. OASLC Education Coordinator kicked off the workshop with an introduction to Alaska's coastal national parks, and Alaska Regional Ocean Progam Lead Tahzay Jones followed with a more in-depth look at the variety of marine and coastal resources that National Park Serivce (NPS) manages in Alaska. OASLC Director Benjamin Pister presented a crash course in "Oceanography 101," created by OASLC science communications specialist Erin Kunisch, and also shared insight on how the the NPS is investigating intertidal clams and mussels as part of the 3 year Changing Tides Project. Lewis Sharman, a long-time resource management specialist at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, was also on hand to share 20 years of oceanographic sampling data from Glacier Bay.

In addition to NPS-based information, the teachers also heard from Rick Thoman of the National Weather Service, Wiley Evans from NOAA's Ocean Acidification Research Center, Switgard Duesterloh from Kodiak College, and educators from the Alaska SeaLife Center. Hands-on aspects of the workshop included a tour of the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, "animal encounters" at the Alaska SeaLife Center, and a chemistry board game simulating the reactions that contribute to ocean acidification.

Some comments from participants:

"Overall the training was excellent and informative. In the future I am going to put a greater empahasis of connecting the ocean to every aspect of science I teach."

"Plenty of resources provided to take into the classroom. Thank you!"

"More teachers need to come. Knowledge base of presenters was outstanding."

March 2015 Teacher Workshop

Nineteen elementary teachers and nearly as many presenters gathered in Juneau the first weekend in March for a workshop focused on ocean acidification and ocean literacy. The workshop was sponsored by the Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center (OASLC) who coordinated in partnership with the Alaska SeaLife Center. A number of other partners were also involved: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Auke Bay Laboratories, the National Weather Service, Kodiak College, University of Alaska, Anchorage, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

The workshop was held at the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute, a NOAA facility located just outside of Juneau over the course of three days. Teachers were exposed to a variety of background information delivered by scientists and content experts, and were also presented with lesson plan ideas for incorporating the content into their classrooms. Goals of this workshop included introducing the ocean literacy principles, addressing the issue of ocean acidification, and providing local relevancy to these principles and issues. Another common goal for all OASLC teacher workshops is to get scientists and teachers in the same room for direct interaction and idea exchange.

Among the many excellent presentations and activities, Lewis Sharman from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was on hand to share knowledge gained from two decades of oceanographic monitoring in Glacier Bay. Jason Verhaeghe from Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park presented information on an ongoing outreach program in which students from Skagway have been monitoring plots in Dyea for the last five years. Dr. Mike Sigler, a scientist with the NOAA Fisheries Service, presented work on ocean acidification and north pacific fisheries, focusing on food web impacts on the Alaska king crab. Many communities across southeast Alaska participated in this workshop, including those from Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Haines, Petersburg, Klukwan, Kake, Pelican, Ketchikan, and Angoon.

teacher workshop 2014

NPS/Jim Pfeiffenberger

October 2014 Teacher Workshop

The Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center and the Alaska SeaLife Center hosted their annual teacher workshop in Seward. From October 17-19, teachers from Palmer, Anchorage, Wasilla, Seward, Soldotna, and Anchor Point gathered at the Alaska SeaLife Center to learn about the seven Ocean Literacy Principles. This workshop targeted elementary (K-6) teachers, and there were 29 in attendance. They received a mix of background content on ocean science and curriculum ideas for presenting this material to their students. Speakers included Dr. Russ Andrews of the Alaska SeaLife Center sharing his data and experiences tagging marine mammals with dive recorders, Rick Thoman of the National Weather Service discussing concepts like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and local commercial fisherwoman Rhonda Hubbard sharing what it is like to make your living from the ocean. Teachers were also treated to a behind the scenes "Animal Encounters" with some of the marine life housed at the Center, as well as learning about the marine features and issues of Alaska's National Parks. Overall, teachers came away feeling astounded by the quality of this workshop, and felt that it had excellent content that they could incorporate into their curriculum.

Last updated: January 16, 2020