Okay, so I started things off as a bit of a downer. Considering this is only the third Oceans conference to include education strands, it’s great that it’s being supported.


However, I wonder if a large scientific conference is the best place to sell outreach to scientists for a number of reasons. For one thing, the education research sessions basically competed with the scientific sessions, almost as if it was a parallel conference, scheduled at the same time so one physically could not attend both. Shawn noted that the evening and lunch workshops on outreach are often well attended, for example (at least by graduate students), but that doesn’t get our research out there.


For another thing, the education presentations focused a lot on specific program evaluation results, as I mentioned yesterday. In that way, they really were not speaking to scientists who were looking to get involved in outreach, at least beyond trying to make the case for it in terms of the personal fulfillment results and opportunities for increased funding. The sessions were by and large not aimed at delivering the skills to a broad audience that people could take back to whatever institution they worked with. The specificity of many projects showed more that such programs were possible and rewarding, without offering opportunities for people at other places ways to get involved. On the other hand, Ari Shapiro of Woods Hole (and often heard on NPR) gave many how-to examples for either partnering for general media publishing or do-it-yourself podcasting and multimedia presentations. The low-cost, do-it-yourself options of course appealed to the educators in the audience as well.


Nevertheless, for those of us that are going back to our institutions and hoping to help the scientists we work with there, there were several interesting findings from the sessions:


1) Scientists are still largely unaware of the work we do, especially that there is educational literature out there about what works.

2) All participants in these programs, educators, scientists, and the ostensible “audience” each play roles as both teachers/facilitators and learners at various times. Educators and public audiences both have frequent opportunities for reflecting on their experiences during programs. Most of this occurs via feedback to each other as both groups are fairly familiar with their roles in these situations. On the other hand, the scientists often lack such opportunities outside of program evaluations, to reflect on either of their roles, or even the fact that they play both of those roles during the experience. They probably also need tools to help them do that reflection.

3) There are a lot of great programs reaching maybe 50 teachers at a time. If each of those teachers reach say 200 students each per year, that’s still only 10,000 students, with perhaps a little more via “trickle down” to other teachers that the program teachers work with. In a country with maybe 100 million students, we have a lot of work to do. And we need a lot of money to do it. And we need evidence of these things working and ways to can scale them up wherever possible.

4) We have a bit of work to do even among our education community about the value of qualitative data and what it can tell you, including the fact that there are people out there that can help analyze that data if you have it.

5) We need more research that’s applicable to a lot of situations, not just evaluations of great projects.


I love being in an emerging field, but some days it’s not emerging fast enough.


One of the most important outcomes of our new Lab’s efforts will be in expanding our collaborations in order to advance the field. To that end, we started with the Sea Grant Education retreat that Harrison wrote about, outlining where the Lab fits in with the new vision of an education program and the Hatfield Visitor Center. We continued our discussions by having the Education team join in with the Sea Grant Extension folks this past week as they retreated for their own planning (though they got to go further away than just across the Bay, as Education did). For those of you unfamiliar with Sea Grant Extension, they’re similar to the Agricultural Extension programs that are the community outreach arm of Land Grant university programs: “The primary role of Oregon Sea Grant Extension is to be a trusted broker that provides the interface among scientists, managers, and the public, including stakeholders.’ – from the Oregon Sea Grant Extension website.

We met, first of all, and each took a few moments to explain what we do. As with the education retreat, there was a mix of who knew a lot of people from working together before, and who didn’t. The other task we took some time on was one we’d worked on as an Education team: 1) defining what “free-choice learning” means, 2) figuring out what we already do that is or isn’t “FCL,” and 3) deciding if and how to proceed to incorporate more FCL practices into our work. In both groups, we found that a lot of ways we are already working with our constituents use free-choice learning techniques. Moreover, both groups (Education and Extension) felt that these were effective styles to use whenever possible. The sticking point came with how much choice and control learners could have; for Extension, often, and especially K-12 school group programming, attendance is either mandated by regulation changes or by a teacher, neither of which situation was felt to provide the learner much choice or control. However, we felt that the more we could structure our delivery to center around the learner, the more effective and more positive the experiences could potentially be. Of course, all of these changes will require careful planning and ongoing evaluation. Good thing our Education and Extension programs are well-versed in these ideas. Now we just need a more coordinated effort so as to keep on top of things and not duplicate efforts.

Some choice quotes: Pat Corcoran describing his work as “feral-choice learning,” and Cait Goodwin noting that creating Quests “sounds like it should be easy, but it isn’t.” How apropos both of these were to the conversations as a whole. All in all, it was obvious that we have a lot of areas where we can (and often already do) help each other out. Here’s to continuing those relations as we all share the mission of supporting coastal and ocean resource research, outreach, and conservation.




The inflatable basking shark exhibits atypical feeding behavior.

Today was Homeschool Day in the Visitor Center.  This event gives our education staff an opportunity to work with children and families from a wide variety of learning backgrounds.  It’s also a lot of fun.  This time around, visitors were greeted by a life-size, inflatable basking shark.  As busy as it was, this Homeschool Day went smoother than the last, which was interrupted by a tsunami evacuation.

The new and improved Octocam is almost here!  We’ve been struggling with our underwater octopus webcam for some time, mostly due to the effects of seawater exposure.  We’re going ahead with our plan to install a camera outside the tank, and we’ve already ordered the camera.  That should mean just a couple of weeks until the Octocam is better than ever.

When the previous Octocam was in place, Ursula liked to sleep nestled between the tank wall and the back of the camera.  She held the flexible hose containing the camera’s network and power cables against her forehead like a teddy bear—sometimes pulling the camera slightly out of position in the process.  This was great for visitors, but not so great for our viewers at home.  The new camera will have a pan-tilt-zoom function, so we should be able to see Ursula in some out-of-the-way places.  Stay tuned!