Using Beach Cleanups to Enhance Science Curriculum
Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
by Lori Walsh
Visiting an aquarium can be a powerful learning experience for students, providing them with opportunities to see first-hand the characteristics, adaptations and even habitats of marine animals. But as residents of California, you have an opportunity to help students experience such ecosystems first hand–and even improve them–through a beach cleanup activity. Environmental events happen frequently along the California coastline, offering opportunities to make authentic curriculum connections. Organizations, such as “I Love a Clean San Diego” (ILACSD) and “Heal the Bay” in the Los Angeles area, sponsor monthly cleanups at particular sites and larger, countywide events. Linking a volunteer event with science curriculum has the potential to show students the power of small efforts that can combine to create a massive environmental force.
Marine debris is a problem that affects aquatic species through entanglement, ingestion and habitat destruction. Plastic is one of the most commonly found items on beaches, and it is vital that it is removed as plastic does not biodegrade. The majority of trash in the ocean comes from litter, industry and garbage issues. More information about the marine debris dilemma can be found through the California Coastal Commission (CCC) webpage. This resource provides statistics about debris and videos suitable to use in the classroom. Because the majority of ocean trash originates inland, if you teach near a local park, stream or canyon you can still organize cleanups that will impact ocean health as well.
There are several ways to link a beach cleanup to key science concepts at different grade levels. The most obvious connections relate to understanding habitats, adaptations and individual species. Students can choose an animal to research to see how this species might be impacted by marine debris. Having chosen their animal, students can then document the amount of trash they encounter that could impact their species. A tally sheet can be created to keep track of the kinds of trash found along the beach. This data can then be analyzed in the classroom to determine the most frequently found items and most unusual items.
Weather patterns also connect to a beach cleanup event. The Japanese Tsunami in 2011 has the potential to impact the amount of debris found on California beaches. Brief pre-visit activities might encourage students to predict the kinds of debris that might be found from the tsunami. A tsunami debris field guide can be a great addition to your lesson. There are several useful resources for learning more about tsunamis and debris. The native species of the particular site, erosion and beach creation can also be connected to the beach cleanup. Additional ideas about how to connect curriculum to the event are compiled on the CCC resource page.
Organizing a beach cleanup activity is easy. You can register your class with one of the conservation groups such as ILACSD, who often offer supplies (gloves, trash bags, etc) for volunteers. However, you can coordinate a cleanup simply by picking a location and creating a check in spot on the day of the event. Families should be encouraged to wear closed toe shoes, use sun block and bring water in a reusable bottle to the clean up. Parents should be required to participate with their child, and waivers should be completed on the day of the event. A sign-in table should be placed at the location, and external factors, such as parking and coordination with State Parks, should be considered in advance. All participants should receive safety information at the beginning of the event, such as what to do with hazardous items. Guidelines for beach cleanups can be found at ILACSD page for the Adopt-a-Beach program. Encourage students to bring a reusable container, such as a bucket or milk jug for trash collection and gardening gloves to limit the amount of waste created. Guidelines for Educators planning beach cleanups can be found at the CCC’s page for Educators. Make sure to figure out where trash and recyclables will go after the event and provide hand sanitizer for the volunteers. Additional ideas about how to connect curriculum to the event can be found at the CCC Educator Resource page.
An organized beach cleanup gives students learning opportunities in an informal setting. Volunteering for a beach clean up provides you with the chance to show the importance of environmental stewardship on a local level. Think out-of-the box and use beach cleanups to teach science. These events provide strong curriculum connections while combating marine debris and developing students’ sense of stewardship.
Lori Walsh is Education Specialist at SEA LIFE® Aquarium at LEGOLAND® California Resort. You can reach her at Lori_walsh@hotmail.com. She was invited to write for CCS by CSTA member Laura Henriques.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…