When thinking about creating outreach for a public audience, who should the target audience be? What types of questions can you ask yourself to help determine this information? If is ok to knowingly exclude certain age groups when you are designing an outreach activity? What setting is best for my outreach setting? How many entry or exist points should my activity have? Should there be a take-away thing or just a take-away message? How long should the outreach activity run? How long will people stay once my activity is completed? What types of materials are ok to use with a public audience? For example is there anything I should avoid like peanuts? Am I allowed to touch the people doing the activity to help them put something on to complete the activity? What types of things need to be watched in between each activity to avoid spreading germs? How much information should I “give away” about the topic being presented? What type of questions should I ask the participants in regards to the activity or information around the activity? How much assumed knowledge can I assume the audience has about the topic? Where do I find this information out? What are some creditable resources for creating research based educational activities?

These are some of the questions that I was asked today during a Pre-college Program outreach meeting by another graduate student who works with me on OSU’s Bioenergy Program. Part of our output for this grant is to create and deliver outreach activities around Bioenergy. We plan on utilizing the connections among SMILE, Pre-college Programs and Hatfield Marine Science Center since there are already outreach opportunities that exist within these structures. As we were meeting, it dawned on me that someone who has not ever been asked to create an outreach activity as part of their job may see this task as overwhelming. As we worked through the questions, activities and specific audience needs of the scheduled upcoming outreach, it was both rewarding and refreshing to hear the ideas and thoughts of someone new to the field of outreach.

What are some questions you have when creating outreach? What are some suggestions about creating outreach to the general public verse middle school students verse high school students? Do you have any good resources you can share? What are your thoughts?

Informal educators, scientists, science education faculty, and science institutions worked with the Lincoln County (Oregon) School District to develop and implement professional development for K-12 teachers around ocean literacy and aquatic & marine science.  Oregon Coast Aquatic and Marine science Partnership (OCAMP) ran from 2009-2012 and offered teachers scientific presentations on topics ranging from estuaries to climate change.  Project teachers were also given opportunities to attend and present at national conferences, learn about different aquatic & marine curriculum and materials (including lab materials) available, work in a professional learning community where they had to complete an action research project, and so much more.

For this post, however, I want to focus on lesson plans written by project teachers.  Each OCAMP teacher was encouraged to submit an original lesson plan or a lesson plan that used a pre-existing material either in a new way or over a series of days.  The lesson plans cover a broad range of topics, from plankton to tsunamis.  There is now a wonderful selection of teacher-written (and approved!) lesson plans available on the OCAMP website, http://ocampmsp.webs.com, under the tab OCAMP Developed Lessons. The lesson plans have been organized by Ocean Literacy Principle and by grade level. Hopefully these lesson plans (and other available information) are helpful to both formal and informal educators.

One of the great things about being in graduate school is the variety of experiences that are available in the competition for funding. Each one offers unique opportunities for growth and learning, but some are certainly more challenging than others. I’m currently working on a project that utilizes my skills in web design, but the requirements of the project are beyond what I was formerly able to perform. The past few weeks have been full of learning and expanding and lots of trial and error. I finally found a few useful printed books (especially the Drupal Bible) and with their help I’ve been more successful in building the website with the functionality I envisioned. There is still quite a ways to go, and it would be easier if I had direct access to the servers, but I’m still proud of the work I’ve been able to do and look forward to adding “web development” to my Curriculum Vitae.

(Since the website is still under quite a bit of construction, I have chosen not to release the URL at this point.)

Laura is putting together a video for Volunteer Appreciation Week.  To that end, we spent much of the day filming interviews and animals.  Katie provided technical support with the Magic Planet to aid our efforts.  We have some other video outreach ideas brewing, as well.

Otherwise, we’ve been shining up the website and setting up microphones as per usual.  Water noise is a continuing problem, but one that we can overcome with proper microphone design and placement.  Sometimes this sounds easier than it is.  We’ve been working with our four-microphone Zoom recorder, which has proven useful in this and other situations.

Today, Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) hosted the Salmon Bowl, our regional competition within the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.  Some fellow grad students and I had the opportunity to try out a free-choice learning activity with the participants as part of a class project.

I really enjoyed seeing high school students engaged with ocean sciences.  Many conservation issues don’t have easy answers.  It’s nice to know the next generation of of scientists, voters, educators and citizens in general includes people who are eager to learn and willing to listen to others.

In the Lab, we’re still scrambling to get the website finished up.  We’ve had a lot of great help (technical and emotional) from our colleagues on campus.  Thanks, everybody.  It’s getting there.

The FCL Lab website currently tops our list of priorities.

We’ve been struggling with it for months now, and our biggest obstacles have been the odd affordances and constraints of Drupal.  Drupal is the content management system used by Oregon State University.  It’s open-source and very adaptable.

These are good things.

It’s also user-hostile and often intolerably restrictive for users without certain administrative privileges.

These are bad things.

Very bad things.

It’s sort of like being handed an array of organic compounds and told to create a rhinoceros. Of course, you have to assemble your rhinoceros one cell at a time, creating each cell individually, organelle by organelle.  You can’t just make a skin cell, copy it, then paste it all over the rhino.  You see, this lack of a basic function allows you to make a rhino with all kinds of crazy skin, so it’s actually a “feature.” Aren’t you grateful?

Oh, and you can’t bond hydrogen to carbon yourself because your version of nature does not include that functionality.  There’s an active community of creator deities out there who have found various workarounds, but these all require a level of sanctioned omnipotence that the universe has withheld from you as a matter of policy.  You can finish at least the brain by the end of the week, right?  After all, it’s just one thing!

Perhaps Drupal’s most beautiful moment so far came toward the beginning of our development process.  We wanted to find out how to activate and work with modules, so we tried to consult the help documentation.  Instead of the help page, we were greeted with a message telling us to install the “help” module, with no further explanation.