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TOTE 250Each year, roughly 3,000 local students have the opportunity to get “a taste” of our local estuary as part of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve’s field trip programs. Helping to extend that reach exponentially is NOAA's annual “Teachers on the Estuary” (TOTE) program.

The two-day workshop is open to all teachers that teach any subject for any grade at any school. TOTE workshops offer a minimum of 15 contact hours, giving teachers the opportunity to:

  • Explore coastal habitats and conduct field investigations;
  • Interact with local scientists and experienced coastal educators;
  • Integrate local and national monitoring data into the classroom; and
  • Learn hands-on field activities highlighting our various Estuary Education Resources

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On board the education vessel, teachers practice water quality sampling techniques, handle and observe many types of marine life and learn how to collect plankton. A field trip to a nearby barrier island provides immersive experiences in a mangrove basin forest and a beach walk where teachers learn about the different estuarine habitats and their connections to the land. In the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, sessions led by reserve educators and community partners focused on sea turtle and shark research, shorebird monitoring, invasive species and a myriad of online tools and other resources that are available for teachers to use in their lesson planning.

Expected Outcomes for Students

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• Raise awareness of the connection between the ocean and student’s lives.
• Enhance ability to analyze and interpret data.
• Improve understanding about how scientists use monitoring data to study and protect ocean resources.
• Gain a better understanding of the scientific method, including the concept that science is an on-going, iterative process.
• Improve understanding of estuarine ecology, including functions and values of estuaries.
• Foster a sense of stewardship of watersheds, estuaries, and oceans.

Results are always fantastic. In 2018, 40 TOTE workshops were held nationwide engaging 290 teachers.

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Here's what teachers are saying:

• 94% intend to integrate in the coming school year
• 81% found the “hands-on, field based professional development that helps me meet STEM standards” VERY USEFUL
• 84% found the “access to a curriculum that provides local data and relevant science topics for my students” VERY USEFUL
• 87% said “professional experts that I can call on year round” was VERY USEFUL
• Quality of content, quality of instruction, usefulness, and location all received over 90% VERY SATISFIED
• The Need/Want Science Related Topics box has amazingly useful suggestions if you’re looking to update or expand your TOTE workshops! For example, lots of suggestions for climate change, human impacts, MWEEs, ocean acidification, watersheds and water quality
• The Ah-Ha Moments box has some great nuggets that all ECs could use to get ideas for future workshops. For example, what is the Tabletop Turbidity Tool that one teacher references and which EC is using it because we’d like to learn more about it!

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