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Oceans Program at Flour Bluff Intermediate

TEEA 2014 Winner: Education

In 1990, Cliff Strain started the Oceans Program at Flour Bluff Intermediate School as an elective program in marine science for sixth graders. The idea was to design a curriculum that encouraged students to gain hands-on experience and better connect to the natural world.

Students spend their time seine (large-net) fishing for local species, which they either let go or keep as pet specimens in Strain’s classroom for the year. Students are responsible for taking care of the many animals that fill up the tanks and pools around the classroom. This allows students to interact with them and learn the subtle differences between species. Between dissecting sharks and kayaking through saltwater wetlands, the students get a deep appreciation for how marine plants and animals interact with their local environment. The program creates an understanding among students that, to preserve habitat for those plants and animals, it is important to keep our air and water clean.

In 2006, the program was augmented by the addition of 57 acres of wetlands donated to the district for educational use. This beautiful saltwater wetland is only a few minutes’ walk from the school and an incredible resource for the Oceans Program allowing students to create a personal relationship with the natural world. These students not only learn how to measure salinity and assess coastal erosion, they have a great time with their friends outdoors and gain a very positive association with science. For example, a quick poll of 11 students in a given class will yield about eight students saying that they would like to grow up to be marine biologists.

The Oceans Program is an elective and not required by the school, yet it consistently has high demand from students and is open to fifth graders as well. Now in its 24th year, the program has educated over 15,000 students to better appreciate their local environment and become involved in science. By cultivating a love of marine science in children in the fifth and sixth grades, the program will inspire lifetimes of environmental stewardship.