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NOAA Teacher at Sea Alum Brings the Ocean into Earth Day

NOAA Teacher at Sea alum Jason Moeller talks to girl scouts about the planet during The World is in Our Hands Workshop on Earth Day at Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.  Photo Credit: Cathy Hall, troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 1157

Moeller helping girl scouts at the time capsule exhibit during Earth Day.  Photo Credit: Cathy Hall, troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 1157

April 22, 2012

Every day is Earth Day at NOAA, but for teachers across the country, Earth day provides a special opportunity to highlight the importance of our earth and our oceans.

This April, Jason Moeller, an educator at Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, is integrating his experience with NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program into his Earth Day activities. Last summer, Moeller spent three weeks at-sea helping scientists study pollock fisheries off the coast of Alaska. This Alaskan adventure is one Moeller has weaved into the zoo’s World in Our Hands workshop—an activity for girl scouts to learn more about natural sciences and celebrate Earth Day. We recently caught up with Moeller to learn more about how his time at sea has transformed into education.

Tell me about your Teacher at Sea experience.

Last June, I was aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson for three weeks studying the Pollock fishery in Alaska. While at sea I participated in lot of lab work and fishing. I got to see a lot of wildlife. I saw killer whales, otters, and even caught a 25 pound halibut. Overall the experience was a lot of fun.

How did you integrate your experience into your work?

Knoxville is landlocked so this experience has helped me share the marine world with kids that come to the zoo. I teach homeschool classes at the zoo, which range from kindergarten through 8th grade. As part of the lesson plan, I created an oceanography section that is entirely based on my Teacher at Sea experience. I am able to show the kids pictures, attest to life on a boat and open them up to a world otherwise inaccessible. My experience has also helped Boy Scout troops in the area earn their fish & wildlife merit badge. Before my trip, when the scouts came into the zoo, we had a lot of information about wildlife but not fisheries. Now I have the fisheries knowledge to pass on to the scouts.

What’s The World in Our Hands workshop, and how are you involved?

The World in Our Hands program was designed by The Girl Scouts of America as a workshop to teach girls about the planet and animals. It is a very young program so I got to help take it over and introduce new aspects. It is composed of four stations around the zoo. At the first station the girls hear from a wildlife conservation officer; at the second station we bring in a live animal for an animal encounter; and at the third station we teach the girls about animal enrichment while they make enrichment toys for the zoo’s birds.

The fourth station, where the girls learn about how humans have a direct impact on the environment, was inspired by my time at sea and a lesson I used to teach at the St. Louis Zoo. In the activity, we play a game that demonstrates how overfishing and oil-spills, among other human activities in our oceans, can lead to food shortages for other animals. This idea came from my time at sea where I saw first-hand how overfishing can affect an ecosystem.

Do you think there is a link between hands-on teaching and environmental stewardship?

Absolutely! I see it especially with homeschool kids. The kids that take classes at the zoo are often the ones most eager to volunteer. The more exposure to animals and the natural world that the volunteers gain, the more interested in the environment the kids become.

In its 22nd year, the Teacher at Sea program has provided more than 600 teachers hands-on marine research experiences varying from fish surveys in Alaska to tidal research in the Indian Ocean. Upon return, the teachers bring their greater understanding and excitement back to the classroom, giving their students a glimpse into a scientific world they may otherwise not see. Climb aboard the adventures and take a look at current Teacher at Sea blogs.