The proposed collaboration and activities will contribute to increased environmental literacy for approximately 400,000 individuals and will create more than 60 workforce development opportunities during 2014-2018 directly addressing the National Sea Grant and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant focus area of Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development. Of these approximately 400,000 individuals, at least 60,000 will be K-12 students in underserved environments. These proposed activities also indirectly address the National Sea Grant and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant focus areas of Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture and Resilient Communities and Economies. Specific activities undertaken will result in an environmentally literate public informed by a variety of formal and informal engagement activities and programs.
The proposed efforts will also result in the development and formalization of Gulf Literacy Principles and their integration into existing environmental education programs at the 3 centers. The Gulf Literacy Principles will provide a consistent message for educators and engagement professionals to use as we work to bring attention to and understanding of the Gulf of Mexico and its importance to the nation.
The 3 informal education centers will offer a variety of programs and activities that include academic year experiential field-based classes for K-12 students, in-school programs at K-12 schools, professional development opportunities for formal (K-16) and informal educators, summer enrichment programs for school-age children, immersive educational experiences for high school students, and scholarship, internship and volunteer opportunities for high school and undergraduate students. Activities also include free-choice learning by the public through visitation at each of the respective centers involved, experiential field experiences and center participation in environmentally-themed outreach events.
The 3 informal education centers will collaboratively develop, test, disseminate and integrate a set of Gulf Literacy Principles. Through their existing activities, programs, networks and partnerships, the centers and their staff will survey or interview educators, research scientists and members of the public to build a consensus of essential and fundamental aspects of the Gulf of Mexico’s ecology, economy and communities.
Assessments and evaluations will be conducted to determine student cognitive learning (classes), knowledge gain for educators (workshops) and evaluations of perceived programmatic value, quality of instructional delivery, attitudinal changes, success in meeting stated objectives and facility adequacy/logistics (workshops and classes).
The 3 informal education centers will offer a variety of opportunities for K-12 and college students to learn about and experience careers in the STEM disciplines. These will include scholarships for specific programs, internships in marine science and environmental education, and volunteer opportunities in a multitude of areas.
The 3 informal education centers will meet quarterly to identify needs and gaps among our audiences, develop cohesive programs, and schedule activities such that a continuum of MASGC learning experiences is offered to students, educators and members of the general public in the MASGC area. Meetings will also be opportunities to assess and evaluate progress.
According to NOAA, an environmentally literate person is someone who has a fundamental understanding of the systems of the natural world, the relationships between the living and non-living environments and the ability to understand and utilize scientific evidence to make informed decisions regarding environmental issues. Education research shows that experiential education programs can engage learners, promote action and instill stewardship. The continuum of experiential education programs collaboratively offered by DISL-DHP, MCPSS-ESC and GCRL-MEC through this proposal will increase environmental literacy among K-12 students, educators and the general public. Development of the Gulf Literacy Principles will provide a scaffolding for educational activities and curricula as well as a consistent message for educators and engagement professionals to use that will bring attention to and understanding of the Gulf of Mexico and its importance to the nation.
Exposure to and experiences in specific careers are essential for initial student engagement and continued interest. The career opportunities for K-16 students offered through the proposed programs will contribute to the development of a diverse NOAA workforce.