Past Awards

FY 2024 | 3 – Inform | 24-10-03

Headwaters to Ocean

Lauren Bien, Prince William Sound Science Center
Contract Term: 10/01/23 - 09/30/24
Award: $60,000

The Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) requests $60,000 from the Oil Spill Recovery Institute to support the direct engagement track of our Headwaters to Ocean Education Program (H2O). This proposal addresses the K-12 Education portion of OSRI’s FY24 Work Plan. Our direct engagement track consists of education programs (each described below) for elementary and secondary school students in Cordova and other communities in coastal Alaska. As always, it is our goal to help future leaders become scientifically and ecologically literate, so they are prepared to make informed decisions that promote sustainable resource use and preserve interconnected and diverse natural systems. We are committed to engaging students in their local environment to allow them to develop an intimate understanding and appreciation of their home to meet this goal. OSRI’s mission to support education programs that improve the understanding and response to oil spills in Arctic and Sub-Arctic marine environments aligns well with the goals of Headwaters to Ocean Education. The programs described below introduce young learners to marine environments; allow exploration on the topic of oil spills, oil spill prevention, and oil spill research; and educate future researchers and responders. 

 

Discovery Room provides hands-on science education to students in Cordova’s elementary school with the goal of inspiring life-long passion for science and increasing scientific literacy. PWSSC proposes to deliver lessons and materials related to OSRI’s mission of understanding the effects of oil spills, oil spill response and recovery, technology development, and characterization of marine ecosystems where spills may occur. OSRI funding will support program delivery to allow for connectivity between the Discovery Room and Secondary School Outreach activities we support. The hands-on, inquiry-based Discovery Room experiences will give students the familiarity of healthy marine ecosystems, the skills needed to monitor natural systems, an understanding of human impacts such as climate change and oil spills on marine ecosystems and will allow for exploration of oil spill response strategies.  

 

Secondary School Outreach programs allow PWSSC to keep older students engaged in marine science-centric activities that promote critical thinking, problem solving and ecological literacy. OSRI funding will support program delivery of lessons about ocean sciences to secondary school students in Discovery Outreach and National Ocean Sciences Bowl programs.  

 

Discovery Outreach programs extend Discovery Room programming to audiences outside of Cordova and increase the number of individuals served by Science Center education programs. Many of the students served by Discovery Outreach programs qualify as underserved populations and often have limited access to science and environmental education resources and opportunities. We propose to apply OSRI funds to support delivery of marine- and oil-themed Discovery Outreach programs focused on engaging youth from coastal Alaska.  

 

Discover Cordova programs engage youth who are not yet school age in hands-on activities that emphasize the diversity, role, and value of sub-Arctic marine ecosystem components. These Discover Cordova programs, which may be offered in any season, prepare youth and their parents for eventual participation in Discovery Room or Discovery Outreach activities and inspire young ecosystem stewards. 

 

PROJECT INFORMATION 

 

      Incorporated by commercial fishermen and community leaders in 1989, the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) is an independent, non-profit institute committed to scientific research and science education. We work to improve the understanding of the ecosystems of Prince William Sound, the Copper River watershed, Bering Glacier, and the northern Gulf of Alaska. 

 

      Our mission is to advance the understanding and sustainable use of ecosystems in the northern Gulf of Alaska region through research and education. We work to provide research, monitoring and education programs in service to the world’s richest waters. Our long-term vision is to improve, influence, and support the ability of communities in our bioregion to maintain socioeconomic resilience among healthy, functioning ecosystems. We believe research and education can be applied to improve management of resources for maximum resiliency during this time of rapid shifts in climate and surrounding ecosystems.  

 

      Since our inception, we have applied an innovative combination of formal and informal educational programs to inspire a life-long understanding of and interest in evidence-based decision making. We prioritize efforts to develop scientifically literate citizens who value ecological systems and make balanced decisions with their community, economy, and ecology in mind. We take a whole-society approach that includes a direct engagement component with K-12 students and is comprised of: Discovery Room (targeting elementary school students in Cordova), Secondary School Outreach (targeting local middle and high school students), Discovery Outreach (targeting K-12 students from rural villages), and Discover Cordova programs for pre-school age youth. 

  

      In the Science Center’s vision, our region maintains resilience by fostering strong connections between self, surroundings, science, and society for all members of the community. Education is a cornerstone of this vision.  

 

H2O Major Accomplishments of FY23 

  1. Over 170 students in kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades engaged in regular ocean related activities and were exposed to experts and careers in the field of STEM.  
  1. The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Challenge was hosted in Sitka in October 2022, at the 2023 regional Tsunami Bowl, and during Discovery Room with Cordova’s 6th grade class. Over 140 students from eight communities, ranging from 6-12th grade participated in this ultimate hands-on STEM program.  
  1. The ROV Kit Build-Guide was used by a teacher at Dimond HS in Anchorage as a year-long engineering project. Her class built ROV Kits from scratch, exclusively using our guide, and launched them in their pool at the end of the school year – they all worked! 
  1. The ROV Kit Build-Guide has been downloaded from our website over 40 times from countries all over the world. The comprehensive guide is available for download on our website and print copies are available upon request.  

 

DISCOVERY ROOM  

 

Overall Discovery Room Goals and Objectives 

Goal: Inspire life-long passion for science and increase scientific literacy of Cordova students by providing high quality, hands-on science education activities. Increase understanding of place by giving students access to local ecosystems and the tools to understand and appreciate their home. 

 

Objectives: 

  1. Use local ecosystems as a natural laboratory through field experiences and guided exploration. 
  1. Increase student understanding of and connection to the natural world. 
  1. Connect scientists and other content experts directly with students. 
  1. Provide students access to learning opportunities that use scientific equipment and scientific processes. 
  1. Expose students to careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. 

 

Since 1992, the Science Center has partnered with the Cordova School District and other community partners to implement the Discovery Room and bring hands-on, inquiry-based learning to elementary school students. The Discovery Room typically involves monthly interactions between educators and students in grades K-6. A combination of classroom activities and field trips are used to increase understanding and connection to the natural world. We also connect local scientists with students to teach about a variety of subjects in grade-specific programs. Curriculum materials are relevant to the region and are designed to address Alaska State performance standards for each grade level as well as national standards (such as Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Standards, Ocean Literacy Standards, and 21st Century Skills).  

 

This request is for support of the 5th and 6th grade Discovery Room programs which introduce students to concepts important in understanding marine ecosystems in coastal regions, tools for monitoring these ecosystems, the impacts of an oil spill, and response strategies. Students behave as young oceanographers and develop technology skills that allow them to become familiar with equipment used to study the ocean. These programs are designed to get students outside and feeling comfortable in their local environment so that they may become stewards for the natural ecosystems in their home. While we focus specifically on the 5th and 6th grades in this request, we often work with other grades (Kindergarten-6) that accomplish these and similar goals.  

 

Fifth Grade: Ocean Science and Fisheries  

Goal: Engage fifth grade students in classroom and field activities to increase their understanding of ocean sciences and processes, oceanographic monitoring, and the impacts of climate change on key groups, such as plankton and salmon, and key species such as Pacific Herring. 

 

Objectives: 

  1. Students understand the role of scientists and science in ocean monitoring. 
  1. Students understand functional and structural components of marine ecosystems. 
  1. Students understand the role of phytoplankton and zooplankton in the marine food chain and the explicit connection between plankton and herring. 
  1. Students understand herring biology and the important role herring play in marine ecosystems. 
  1. Students use scientific equipment and instruments to collect and analyze scientific data. 
  1. Students are exposed to careers in the fields of science, technology engineering and math. 

 

The fifth grade Discovery Room curriculum focuses on ocean ecosystems and how they are affected by various physical and chemical factors. In order to understand the potential impacts of oil spills and the importance of studying them, students must first understand ocean ecosystems. This program engages approximately 30 students per year at Mt. Eccles Elementary School in Cordova, Alaska. Lesson topics include use of scientific equipment, interpreting oceanographic data, function and structure of marine ecosystems and food chains, herring biology, and ecosystem function.  

 

Alaska State Science Standards applicable to OSRI funded Headwaters to Ocean 5th grade programming 

  • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. Some resources are renewable over time and some are not.  
  • 4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.  
  • 4-LS1-2 Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on systems of information transfer. Examples may include salmon homing, responses of marine invertebrates to sound and smell, and sonar communication among whales and other marine mammals.]  
  • 5-PS3-1 Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, and motion and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.  
  • 5-LS2-1 Develop and describe a model that describes the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.  
  • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment 

 

Deliverables: 

We will measure our success by achieving the following deliverables: 

  1. Unit lessons delivered to Cordova 5th graders via Discovery Room. 
  1. Refined lessons with interactive and hands-on activities. 
  1. Engagement of students in formative and summative evaluation activities 

 

Timeline: Discovery Room takes place during the school year months (September-May) and we attempt to meet with each class once/month for at least eight of the ten months of school. Each month’s activities review and build upon the previous month’s topic so that each objective is met and the overall unit is complete by May of 2024. Below is the schedule for the 2023-2024 school year Discovery Room themes for the 5th grade class. These are the broad topics, and each month/theme is subject to change based on class interest and availability. 

 

5th Grade Sep.  Oct.  Nov.  Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May 
Monthly theme What is a scientist? Salmon life cycle Marine food web Plankton Science Center field trip Herring life cycle Herring dissection Harbor field trip Shorebird field trip 

Sixth Grade: Ocean Circulation, Ocean Technology, and Oil Spill Response  

Goal: Engage Cordova’s sixth graders in virtual and hands-on activities to increase their understanding of human impacts on the environment, how technology is used in ocean monitoring, and oil spill response and challenges in Alaskan ecosystems. 

 

Objectives: 

  1. Students understand properties of water and the water cycle. 
  1. Students examine interactions between atmosphere, carbon cycle, and ecosystems. 
  1. Students examine the impacts of climate change on marine organisms. 
  1. Students understand how technology is used in real-world environmental applications, such as ocean monitoring and oil spill response. 
  1. Students understand why petroleum resource extraction occurs in Alaska and identify threats associated with extraction. 
  1. Students examine the sources and impacts of oil pollution in marine environments. 
  1. Students are exposed to a variety of careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. 

 

Technology is vital to studying the ocean. From shipboard water collection devices to satellite remote sensing instruments, scientists use tools to improve our understanding of ocean function. We depend on advanced technology to extract, refine and transport oil and other petroleum products that fuel our society. We also use technology to respond to oil spills as well as to detect and address climate change. As the Arctic reacts to the impacts of a warming climate and becomes more ice-free, opportunities for resource extraction are increasing as well as commercial maritime traffic. Along with these opportunities come the challenges of ensuring safe processing of resources and incident-free transit of vessels. 

 

Lesson topics include physical properties of ocean water and oil, oil formation, ocean acidification, sources of oil pollution in marine environments, oil spill response technology, and the construction and operation of ROVs. Many of our lesson plans have been incorporated into the latest version of the Alaska Oil Spill Curriculum.  

 

We will provide students with an opportunity to have encounters with local ocean scientists and oil spill response personnel and host the 6th grade ROV Challenge in the spring.  

 

Alaska State Science Standards applicable to OSRI funded Headwaters to Ocean 6th grade programming 

  • MS-PS1-3 Collect information that supports the idea that synthetic materials come from the use of natural resources and analyze the positive and negative effects of use and development of synthetics on society. 
  • Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology: Engineering advances have led to important discoveries in virtually every field of science, and scientific discoveries have led to the development of entire industries and engineered systems.  
  • Influence of Science, Engineering and Technology on Society and the Natural World: The uses of technologies and any limitation on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. Thus, technology use varies from region to region and over time.  
  • MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.  
  • MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity. 
  • MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates. 
  • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. 
  • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment. 
  • MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.  
  • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short- and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.  
  • The use of technologies and limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. 
  • MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 

 

Deliverables: 

We will measure our success by achieving the following deliverables: 

  1. Unit lessons delivered to Cordova 6th graders via Discovery Room. 
  1. Construction of student-designed and operated ROVs. 
  1. Completion of a mock oil spill clean-up challenge using student-built ROVs. 
  1. Engagement of students in formative and summative evaluation activities. 

 

Timeline: Discovery Room takes place during the school year months (September-May), and we attempt to meet with each class once/month for at least eight of the ten months of school. Each month’s activities review and build upon the previous month’s topics so that each objective is met, and the overall unit is complete by May of 2024. Below is the schedule for the 2023-2024 school year Discovery Room themes for the 6th grade class. These are the broad topics, and each month/theme is subject to change based on class interest and availability. 

 

6th Grade Sep.  Oct.  Nov.  Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May 
Monthly theme Properties of water lab Ocean circulation Marine Debris Engineering challenge Oil Spill in a Pan Table 

top drill 

ROV Build ROV Challenge 6th grade overnight 

 

 

 

SECONDARY SCHOOL OUTREACH 

 

National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB)** 

The NOSB is an academic competition and program that addresses a national gap in environmental and earth sciences in public education by introducing high school students to and engaging them in ocean science, preparing them for ocean science-related and other STEM careers, and helping them become knowledgeable citizens and environmental stewards. The Center for Ocean Leadership coordinates and manages the national competition. Locally in Alaska, our regional competition is called the Tsunami Bowl and is managed by Alaska Sea Grant and University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.  

 

During the competition, student teams compete in the Quiz Bowl sessions where they answer questions about ocean sciences. Tsunami Bowl participants are additionally required to complete a research project. Students must submit a 15-page research paper and give a 15-minute oral presentation on their paper topic during Tsunami Bowl 

 

Each year Science Center staff recruit and coach Cordova High School students to prepare for the Tsunami Bowl. Students develop essential learning skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, innovation and communication. Cordova NOSB teams receive over 60 hours of direct instruction and cover over 30 topics related to ocean science via weekly training sessions. The PWSSC coach will lead twice-weekly sessions focused on ocean sciences topics, facilitate Quiz Bowl practice rounds, and mentor students on research paper completion and presentation. Each team member will be asked to present on a topic of their choice and local experts and Science Center staff will also present on related topics to expose the team to broad expertise. We request support for staff coaching time.  

 

**The Consortium for Ocean Leadership dissolved last year. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) has taken over NOSB under a new entity, the Center for Ocean Leadership (COL). COL has announced that there will be limited support for regional competitions this year and there will be no nationals competition in 2024. PWSSC still plans to recruit and coach a team and host our ROV competition for the regional Tsunami Bowl in 2024.  

 

Discovery Outreach 

Goal: Inspire life-long passion for science and increase scientific literacy of students in rural Alaskan communities by providing high quality, hands-on science education activities. 

 

Objectives: 

  1. Offer Discovery Room lessons to students from communities other than Cordova. 
  1. Increase student understanding of and connection to the natural world. 
  1. Students improve understanding of the function and structure of marine ecosystems. 
  1. Provide students from rural communities’ access to learning opportunities that use scientific equipment. 
  1. Expose students to careers in the fields of science, technology engineering and math. 

 

The Discovery Outreach program began in 1993 and serves rural Alaskan communities where access to high quality science education is limited. The program adapts materials from our Discovery Room curricula and includes themes such as oceanography, ocean technology, oil spill prevention and response, fish ecology (focused on salmon and herring), water quality monitoring, climate change, and ecosystems. Discovery Outreach allows us to increase the geographic impact and number of individuals served through our program efforts. Specific instructional objectives and student learning outcomes are based on the lessons that are delivered to each student group; all lessons are aligned to science content standards at either the state or national level. PWSSC educators travel to communities for two or more days (depending on the programs we are asked to deliver) and work with as many students as time, staff, and student availability permit. The venue of program delivery can vary and may include: a single class period; a school-wide or multi-class workshop; enrichment activities delivered to a club or groups of students at different types of student gatherings (e.g. Tsunami Bowl, summer programs, etc.). PWSSC markets our program and identifies participating youth through a variety of methods. 

 

In FY24, with direction from the OSRI work plan, we seek funding from OSRI to fully cover expenses for one outreach trip, in which we will engage youth from rural Alaskan communities. Funding would also be used to host the ROV competition at the Tsunami Bowl, in which students from Alaskan communities across the state participate. Since 2012, PWSSC educators have implemented an ROV experience for all participating NOSB teams; the competition allows teams (of four to five students each) to build and operate an ROV that responds to a mock oil spill.  

 

Secondary School Outreach Deliverables: 

We will measure our success by achieving the following deliverables: 

  1. Coach at least one Cordova team for the 2024 NOSB Tsunami Bowl. 
  1. Schedule and deliver Discovery Outreach programs to Alaskan youth. 
  1. Host ROV Challenge at the 2024 NOSB Tsunami Bowl. 

 

Timeline: Recruitment for an NOSB Tsunami Bowl team begins in September and team practices run from September until the competition date, usually in late February. Discovery Outreach trips typically happen in the spring of each year, but we have also been scheduling some for the fall/winter. We expect we will be able to have both programs complete by September of 2024.  

 

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS 

 

Many of our programs are implemented with partnership support. Partners make in-kind contributions such as staff time, physical program space, equipment, and materials. Our partners for our direct engagement programs include Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Copper River Watershed Project, Cordova School District, Oil Spill Recovery Institute, PWS Regional Citizens Advisory Council, United States Forest Service (USFS) Cordova Ranger District, and Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment.  

 

 

BUDGET, JUSTIFICATION & FUNDING SOURCES 

 

Budget for the project in FY24 is in the accompanying spreadsheet. A budget justification is in the Appendix A tab of the spreadsheet. 

 

Headwaters to Ocean Education is supported by a variety of sources, including grants from Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, AT&T, ConocoPhillips, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, and Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council. OSRI funds will be used to leverage additional funds and partner resources for the continuation, expansion and sharing of Headwaters to Ocean Education programs so that they serve as many students in as many geographic locations as practicable.  

 

 

EDUCATION STAFF  

 

Education Director, responsible for: Discovery Room, Discovery Outreach, and Discover Cordova program development and implementation; assisting with refining curricula flow; developing evaluation materials; monitoring data and Discovery Outreach information; NOSB coaching; reporting to funders.  

 

Education Specialist, responsible for: leading Discover Cordova; leading and assisting with Discovery Room and Discovery Outreach sessions; hosting ROV challenge events. 

 

AmeriCorps Volunteer, responsible for: assisting Discover Cordova; assisting with Discovery Room and Discovery Outreach sessions; leading ROV kit upkeep; assisting ROV challenge events.