Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Using Large Marine Ecosystems and Cultural Responsiveness as the Context for Professional Development of Teachers and Scientists in Ocean Sciences

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Using Large Marine Ecosystems and Cultural Responsiveness as the Context for Professional Development of Teachers and Scientists in Ocean Sciences

Article excerpt


Some of the most significant ongoing ocean research in Alaska is conducted on a large-scale basis that integrates marine geoscience research into multidisciplinary studies organized geographically and ecologically by Alaska's three large marine ecosystems (LMEs): Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea/Aleutians, and Arctic Ocean (Fig. 1). The major funders of this research include the National Science Foundation (NSF), North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They also encourage and support projects that integrate traditional ecological knowledge or local and traditional ecological knowledge with Western science. NPRB requires researchers who receive grant funding to engage in outreach and community involvement, and NSF requires researchers to articulate and implement the "broader impacts" of their research (NSF, 2007), which can take the form of broadening participation in science by underrepresented groups. Alaska's K-12 education system requires that curriculum and instruction in science meet Alaska state science standards (ADEED, 2006) and that all curriculum and instruction be culturally responsive to Alaska's diverse cultures by meeting Alaska state cultural standards (ADEED, 2006). This overlapping emphasis on outreach and education for local communities and Alaska Native cultures provided the foundation for the design of scientist-educator professional development workshops.

Three workshops took place between 2010 and 2012. Each focused on a different Alaska LME and was modified in response to conditions of the program and specific feedback through formative assessments. TTie purpose of this article is to share lessons learned and to reflect on the evolution of a model for professional development that supported placebased and culturally responsive instructional approaches to science education.

The primary partners in the design and implementation of all three workshops included the Alaska Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE-AK), Alaska Sea Grant, and NPRB. Additional partners participated in planning and implementation of specific workshops: (1) Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) Polar Teachers Research and Education Collaborations (PolarTREC) program (Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean workshops), (2) the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's (MBARI) Educators and Researchers Testing Hypotheses (EARTH) program (Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska workshops), (3) NOAA Teacher-at-Sea program (Bering Sea workshop), (4) Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS; Gulf of Alaska and Arctic Ocean workshops), and (5) North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD; Arctic Ocean workshop).


We designed the workshops to provide a collaborative structure for scientists and educators to translate science content into lesson plans that were scientifically accurate, place based, and culturally responsive to Alaska Native cultures. The workshops were also designed as outreach opportunities for the ocean scientists to increase their interest and skills in translating their research for K-12 teachers and students. This article reports on lessons learned in relation to the development of the lesson plans. The impacts of workshop design features on scientists will be reported fully elsewhere.


The design of the workshops required addressing a cultural disconnect between modern Western science and indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing. This disconnect contributes to an academic gap in science and a general failure for Alaska Native and Native American students to pursue higher education and careers in science (Semken, 2005) and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Pandya (2012) described the disconnect between the norms and priorities of the research community and the values, aspirations, and cultures of many historically underrepresented communities as a key hurdle to broader participation. …

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