Learning conference

Dan Twitchell, board member of the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, instructs Kristina Webster, a science teacher at Sutherlin High School, in the Japanese folk art Gyotaku. The activity took place during the 2019 Coastal Learning Conference, which was held at the Oregon Coast Aquarium on Oct. 11. (Photos by Cheri Brubaker)

Teachers gather at Oregon Coast Aquarium

NEWPORT — The 2019 Coastal Learning Conference at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, an annual professional development opportunity for educators in the Lincoln County School District and beyond, took place on Friday, Oct. 11.

The goal of the conference is to give educators content, activities and resources to engage students in learning about the ocean and coast. 

The activities started off with a keynote address by Duncan Berry, environmentalist and founder of Fishpeople Seafood. Berry, also the artist behind the traveling exhibit “Thanks Be to the Sea” currently displayed at the aquarium, was on hand to teach others the Japanese folk art Gyotaku, or fish rubbing.

Paul Robertson, Dan Twitchell and Berry assisted primarily science educators in the art of nature printmaking with fish, seaweed and feathers. They also represented Cascade Head United Nations Biosphere Reserve in Oregon, which is “a non-mandatory community-based biosphere reserve effort,” explained Berry.

Using the art form “as a portal to biological and environmental education,” teachers in attendance will take their experiences at the aquarium to their classrooms. The printmaking workshop was a demonstration of how well science translates into other disciplines, in this instance, the arts.

Local organizations Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon Coast STEM Hub, Oregon State Parks and Recreation, OSU Outdoor School Program, Oregon Guardian Schools, Vernier Software & Technology, Oceanscape Network and Corsair Foundation were all represented.

Some organizations offered sample field trips to the teachers, longer versions of which are available for their students.

Marine Discovery Tours offered an afternoon expedition aboard the vessel Discovery. Teachers set sail on a beautiful afternoon to gather sea life to examine on deck in aquariums.

Emily Northrip, an aquarium education specialist, led a workshop on bringing nature from the outdoors into the classroom, demonstrating the inquiry practices the aquarium uses to elicit deep learning and sharing resource ideas with the teachers.

Nate Sandel of Columbia River Maritime Museum shared the museum’s Miniboat program, which can be replicated in the classroom.

Adam Talamantes, of the OSU Research Vessel Program, shared resources and hands-on activities that incorporate STEM and ocean data ranging from tracking whale migration to engineering research tools.

Portland Audubon’s Paul Englemeyer shared land and sea conservation issues and strategies. Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf presented an overview of sea otter ecology.

“A big part of our mission is to improve ocean instruction,” said Sarah Roberts, teacher program manager for the aquarium. “Teachers are such an important audience for us." 

The conference was offered to Lincoln County educators free of charge. Others paid a fee of $35 for the conference, which featured lunch catered by Clearwater Restaurant. The teachers in attendance were animated and excited about the learning opportunities they discovered.

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