Influencing Students To Become Stewards Of The Earth's Ocean

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Trimble, Jenifer
Ocean stewardship; inquiry; field embedded learning; experiential learning
thesis / dissertation description
The purpose of this action research study was to document 8th grade students' experiences at a residential marine learning facility as they discovered the interconnections between life on Earth and its dependency on ocean health. My goal was for students to take their new knowledge and share it with others in a quest to become educated and caring stewards of the Earth's ocean. Students in this study participated in open peer and instructor discussions, performed full and guided inquiry activities, and snorkeled among the shallow water habitats that transition from mangroves toward coral reefs to discover the interconnections among shallow water marine habitats and the critical necessity of biological diversity among habitats. The processes used to collect data for this action research study were a pre/post knowledge assessment about coral reefs, videotaped conversations among peers and instructors, photographs documenting student engagement in activities, and interviews conducted at the conclusion of the trip. The themes that emerged included a mindset of ocean stewardship, deep engagement in inquiry-driven activities while interacting among peers, the ability to clearly articulate the effects of human impact on biological diversity and the need to maintain sustainable shallow water ecosystems that are biologically diverse. Although this study was only conducted over a three day weekend, the emergent themes highlight the value of providing students with opportunities to interact with nature. Experiential learning not only contributes to the various ways of knowing but such experiences help students develop a stronger sense of self perception and values as they begin formulating their sense of relationship to and responsibilities toward their own communities and the larger, natural world.