The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport welcomes 450,000 visitors each year, offering educational exhibits and unforgettable encounters with marine life. But the aquarium does more than entertain visitors. It is also a nonprofit that serves as our region’s best champion for ocean literacy.
“We believe that the more ocean literate our citizens become, the better stewards they will be and the better equipped they will be to face the challenges in the 21st century or beyond,” says Dr. Kerry Carlin-Morgan, Director of Education and Volunteer Services.
To empower Oregon’s K-12 teachers with ocean science, the aquarium conducts a weekend professional development workshop called Pedagogy of Place, usually in the Spring. The workshop draws 20-40 teachers from across the state for a retreat at the remote Camp Westwind.
“The workshop is very refreshing for them,” Carlin-Morgan says. “It gives them time to reflect on their own practice and time to think about what’s important to them and what they’d like to incorporate into their classroom.”
Inspiring a sense of place is the workshop’s goal, so that teachers can take this back to their classrooms. Teachers share every meal at Camp Westwind, even eating pickleweed from the estuary. During outdoor treks they practice science activities and place-based writing. They sleep in the bunks and sit around the campfire at night.
“It’s kind of like a camp for grown-ups, but they have to do some work,” Carlin-Morgan says.
When the workshop is complete, teachers walk away with renewed confidence that they can take their students outdoors and integrate other subjects—such as writing—while still meeting science benchmarks.
A grant from the Gray Family Foundation has helped provide stipends for the cost of the workshop, materials, housing and food, leaving zero out-of-pocket expenses for educators.
“It’s been incredibly worthwhile for the teachers.”