Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-4:15 PM


CESSNA, Gretchen, Chemistry Dept, James Madison University, MSC 4501, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, NATALE, Caitlin, IDLS Program, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807 and ST. JOHN, Kristen, Geology and Environmental Science Dept, James Madison University, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807,

Oceanography for Teachers is an undergraduate upper-level science course taught at JMU for K-12 pre-service teachers. Making oceanography content relevant to future teachers of such widely ranging grade bands can be particularly challenging. However, a field experience at the VA Eastern Shore and a related project helped students take ownership over ocean science content, making it more relevant and applicable to the particular K-12 grade band they plan to teach. Prior to the field experience the instructor reduced student novelty space and guided them in developing research questions to investigate on the field trip. Students shifted roles from investigator to teacher for their post-field trip project, which required each student to develop a classroom activity for the grade band they plan to teach based on the shared field experience. Highlighted are two examples of student projects, created for grade bands at opposite ends of the K-12 spectrum:

Example 1: The benefits of a hands-on experience that the field trip provided led to the idea of creating a similar situation for children in a classroom. Information from The Project Learning Tree was adapted to create a lesson for the kindergarten or 1st grade classroom. By using shells from organisms found on the field trip, a hands-on activity was formed that gives children practice in using their sense of touch to make observations and identify objects found at the coast. Investigating the natural world by using the senses is a VA SOL. In addition, by sharing stories about where these objects were collected by the teacher, she can increase the interest of the students.

Example 2: Unusually high water during the field trip was the inspiration for this high school Earth science activity which addresses VA SOLs on patterns and causes of tides. The water covering the streets was a powerful experience for the pre-service teachers on the trip, and a potentially engaging story to tell students as they learn about tides. In the lesson students use lunar phase data and tide data recorded at the Wachapreague Tide Gauge Station to discover relationships between tidal ranges and lunar phases. Because students interpret the data before the teacher lectures about tides, they, like real scientists, are given an opportunity to grapple with data and attempt to construct a meaningful understanding of it.