Floating Classroom offers open ‘house,’ teacher workshops on the water

March 01, 2007

MATAGORDA, Texas-Advance registration is required for the Floating Classroom Program’s annual Spring Open House and Cruise for teachers on Saturday, April 28, aboard the R/V Karma.  The Floating Classroom Program is part of Texas Sea Grant Extension, a coastal outreach division of Texas A&M University.

The four-hour on-the-water program will include an introduction to student learning activities matched to TEKS objectives. In addition, participating teachers, curriculum coordinators and administrators will be eligible to receive three Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. This get-acquainted event has a $10 per person charge to cover the lunch and refreshments to be provided.

Sea Grant Extension also offers marine sciences workshops that combine beach, wetland and bay field studies with lab units designed to bring science alive for school students.  Both sessions take place in Matagorda in June for Texas educators of grades 4-12.

“Texas teachers have often expressed to me their disappointment that most of the opportunities for professional development open to them were not fully relevant, adequately stimulating or agreeably fun,” said Willie Younger, Extension marine education specialist and director of the Floating Classroom Program.

“We were quick to recognize that what fourth through 12th grade educators were really telling us is that they wanted a summertime training ‘adventure’ that gave them an exceptional opportunity to grow in their chosen career.”

Teachers, subject-matter specialists and administrators can earn 22 CPE credits for participating in one of the workshops, to be held at or near the program’s Matagorda Harbor headquarters.  Workshop dates are June 5-7 for teachers and science program coordinators for grades 4 through 7, and June 12-14 for those involved in grades 7-12.  Seventh grade educators may attend either workshop.

“The workshops are designed to introduce teachers to the Gulf’s environments, natural resources and human enterprises through wet-and-wild field investigations, while concurrently equipping them with the knowledge, skills and equipment (also known as take-home teaching kits) to incorporate ocean-related inquiry activities (i.e., labs and lessons) into their own science curriculum,” Younger said.

About half of the 22 hours of workshop instruction will be spend engaged in field studies focusing of Gulf Coast bays and estuaries, beaches and wetlands while aboard the 57-foot teaching vessel Karma,paddling kayaks in the salt marshes and bayous, and netting for sea life in the bay and Gulf.  The other half of the workshop will consist of hands-on demonstrations and laboratories conducted indoors.  Subjects to be covered include biology, ecology, physics, water chemistry, meteorology, geology and geography, and resource management.

Registrations will be accepted on a space-available basis through May 22.  There is a $250 per person charge, which includes two nights of double-occupancy lodging, meals and snacks during the three days of the program, and a take-home teaching kit that includes all of the equipment, supplies and lesson plans needed to conduct the labs and demonstrations introduced at the workshop.  Information on how teachers might obtain local financial assistance is available at the Teacher Alert section of the Floating Classroom’s website at www.floatingclassroom.tamu.edu.

Registration priority will be given to classroom teachers, curriculum specialists and school administrators employed by public or private schools or agencies involved in the education process.  Informal educators or home school instructors will be placed on a waiting list and will be admitted if space is available after the registration deadline of May 22, 2007.

The Floating Classroom Program and its teaching vessel, the Karma, are available throughout the year for hands-on educational experiences for youth organizations and student groups, grades 4-12, of up to 54 individuals.  Eligible groups may apply for scholarships that can cover up to 30 percent of the participation fee, based on the availability of private donations and/or grant funds, and the group’s need.

Educators of grades 4-7 at schools within a 90-mile radius of Matagorda, Texas, who are unable to arrange a class trip to the Karma may be able to schedule a classroom visit by a member of the marine education staff at no charge.  While at the school he or she will provide a presentation on the intriguing survival adaptations of marine plants and animals.  For schools outside this radius, local financial support for the program may be needed to defray staff travel costs.

The Floating Classroom Program, which is a joint outreach initiative of Texas A&M University’s Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Sea Grant College Program, also hosts cruises for members of the public on the first Saturday of each month, and has hosted exclusive trips by members of the business, government resource conservation and higher education communities to enhance their understanding and appreciation for the living and non-living resources along the Gulf Coast. In a little more than five years of operation, the program has served more than 15,000 Texans.

For more information on the workshops or open house, contact the Floating Classroom Program at 979-863-2940 or n-vasek@tamu.edu. For information on scheduling a coastal field study program or a classroom visit by a program staff member, call 979-863-2940, or contact the program at floatingclassroom@ag.tamu.edu. Details on the day-long coastal field study experience for 4-12 grade students or youth organizations serving these grade levels can be found on the program’s website athttp://floatingclassroom.tamu.edu.

-30-

Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.