Stories from the Sea

By Katie Dion & Melanie Kudra

What are two educators from the Texas State Aquarium doing looking at rocks for 10 days? (It was no accident that we decided to chronicle the Birch Aquarium at Scripps visit for the blog!) Of course, as we have all learned this week, marine creatures do make up an important part of sediment cores, but an Aquarium’s tie to the oceanography can go much deeper.

We started the day by meeting two fellow educators at the Birch Aquarium, who led a mini-workshop on teaching strategies. After exploring properties of salt and fresh water, we discussed the pros and cons of the strategies at each of the four stations. We then headed out to our personal favorite learning strategy: freely exploring an Aquarium!

Overlooking the Scripps Pier
School of Rocky Intertidal

We didn’t get far before the School of Rock caught up to us:

Sediment Core with Foraminifera at Birch Aquarium

It’s everywhere!  But seriously, the Birch Aquarium did a great job of tying the oceanographic research at Scripps to their living collection, which gave us some ideas of our own (hold that thought!). We reluctantly tore ourselves away from the friendly sea hares…

(Melanie’s favorite animal)

and headed back to the beloved rock lab to learn about an alternative way of relating science knowledge: storytelling.

During a webinar with Sara ElShafie, we learned about the process of taking dry, complex research and turning it into compelling stories for all ages. Often we want to share so much of our knowledge and passion for a topic that we get bogged down in multiple ideas. The solution is simple: choose one main goal, one focus, one motivation and make sure it comes through clearly to your reader. The rest should all be support.

Sara also advised us to identify the main character’s central belief and describe how it changes over the course of the story. Well, before attending School of Rock, these two animal lovers had doubts about how geology would be relevant to our Aquarium’s curriculum. We must admit our beliefs have changed over the course of this week, and we are excited to tell students the story of one of the habitats we highlight at the Texas State Aquarium: the Mesoamerican Reef in the Caribbean.

The Mesoamerican Reef exhibit at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, TX

On Monday, we looked at a core sample taken from this reef system that clearly showed the remnants of sea life, and yesterday we examined core X-rays that showed evidence of bleaching and changes in coral growth over time. This is not to mention our study of foraminifera diversity before and after the meteorite impact on the Yucatan!

Stay tuned to see how we bring these stories to life for our students back at the Aquarium. We look forward to connecting our School of Rock experiences with our living exhibits!

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