Rutgers Institute Celebrates 10 Years of Ocean Immersion

Rutgers Institute Celebrates 10 Years of Ocean Immersion

Aug. 22, 2006


EDITORS NOTE: Education writers and editors


MARE integrates art, education and marine science


NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. Though it lies 20 miles from the nearest salt water, Eisenhower Intermediate School in Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, is immersed in the ocean. Several of its teachers, including language teachers and an art teacher, are participants in the Marine Activities, Resources and Education (MARE) program, administered by the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. MARE, which concentrates on creative ways to teach marine science to elementary school students, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Since 1996, nearly 300 educators from more than 50 schools have taken part in weeklong summer sessions at the Tuckerton, N.J., headquarters of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is managed by Rutgers.

The world is a small place, getting smaller all the time, and most of it is also a wet, salty place, says Janice McDonnell, the institutes director of education and outreach. If were going to live in it, we have to understand the oceans and their intimate, daily relationship with each of us. To achieve that goal, we have to spread knowledge about the ocean as widely and deeply as possible. Thats what MARE is all about.

The participants include teachers whose disciplines are far-removed from science, especially ocean science.

Art teacher Jason Draine and science teacher John DeLong form a teaching team at Eisenhower. DeLongs goal for his fifth-graders is straightforward to teach them to think like scientists. He and Draine use touch tanks full of sea creatures (a few of which some of their colleagues were afraid to touch) and invite the students to see, touch and smell, and then think about what they are seeing, touching and smelling. I really want kids to learn the observational model, DeLong says.

With students up to their elbows in the touch tanks, Draine points out that they are taking the first steps toward art, as well as science. As an artist, you are an observer; you are a scientist, Draine says. We stress to the students that they really need to take their time, see every tank, touch as many creatures as possible. Draines students step beyond observing and wondering to expressing and creating. The students can use a creatures color, texture and motions to understand its place in the ecosystem then they produce drawings, paintings or sculpture.

The cross-disciplinary approach to teaching ocean science is even more pronounced in elementary schools, such as West Avenue School in Bridgeton, in Cumberland County. There, the media specialist, art teacher, music teacher, classroom teachers and parents are involved in planning the schools annual Ocean Week. The media specialist was the coordinator; the art teacher assigned ocean-themed projects to each grade level; the music teacher taught ocean-themed songs; and classroom teachers taught grade-appropriate material about the oceans and led their classes in decorating the outside of their classrooms. There were touch tanks, hermit crab races, fishing demonstrations on the school lawn, an art show, and visits from experts at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden.

Contact: Ken Branson
732-932-7084, ext. 633