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Around the Schools

NOAA partners with Jane Addams K-8 to bring real-world science into classrooms
Teachers, scientists collaborate to develop educational science kits

Oct. 5, 2012 | Audience: Families, Community, Staff | Contact: Communications (206) 252-0200

Over the past year, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) has been working to bring real-world science into the hands of students at the Jane Addams K-8 School, the only environmental science-based elementary and middle school in Seattle.

Jane Addams teachers and scientistsJane Addams science specialist Christine Benita, in photo, second from left, together with NWFSC scientists, from left, Preston Kendrick, Dr. Kathi Lefebvre,  Dr. Elizabeth Frame and NOAA Education Coordinator Casey Ralston collaborated a series of lesson plans and video for an interactive educational kit.

The science kit will help students learn about plankton, understand how some species of phytoplankton release harmful toxins that move through the marine food web, and identify the impacts of harmful toxins on seafood safety and wildlife/human health.

Students creat complex food webLast May, Benita and staff piloted the lessons for the Jane Addams’ 6th-grade science classes. Students watched a National Geographic video clip of Lefebvre and other experts attempting to solve the mystery of ‘zombie’ sea lions, which exhibited strange behavior and even died after eating contaminated seafood.

Students discussed the possible culprit and learned how scientists approach real-world problems. They also had a chance to put their critical thinking skills into action during a brainstorming session, and then peered into microscopes to identify toxic phytoplankton species using a species key.

The lessons culminated with students assembling complex marine food webs and tracing how biotoxins released by harmful algal blooms can move throughout the food web and result in adverse health impacts for wildlife and humans.

Casey Ralston with studentsPrior to piloting these lesson plans for the Jane Addams 6th-grade classroom, Christine Benita spent some time with Northwest Indian College students as a participant in the NWFSC’s 2nd annual EAT (Experience Algal Toxins) workshop. Here, she and the tribal students got a hands-on demonstration in how to extract and measure domoic acid, a pervasive seafood toxin is released during blooms of the harmful algae Psuedo-nitzchia and can accumulate in shellfish and finfish.

NWFSC’s partnership with the Jane Addams K-8 school continues and during the summer, Casey Ralston and Christine Benita traveled to Alaska to present the new educational kit to teachers and informal educators gathered for the National Marine Educators Association annual conference in Anchorage.

These lessons will ultimately be more widely available as an extension to commonly used science kits.

Photos and story provided by NOAA

Middle photo: Jane Addams students create complex food webs to map how toxins produced by plankton can move through the food web to impact marine mammals and birds.
 
Bottom photo: NOAA/NWFSC Education Coordinator Casey Ralston helps a small group of 6th-grade students summarize what they learned from a video about a mystery culprit affecting the health of sea lions.

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