Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Making Waves

By Bridget Kubis Prescott, Director of Education

Today’s students are tomorrow’s future. Save The Bay understood this more than 30 years ago when our education program, lovingly referred to as Explore The Bay, was first envisioned. 

We knew that in order for Narragansett Bay to improve long-term, we needed to engage the youngest constituents in all that Narragansett Bay has to offer. Those youngsters from years ago are now making the decisions that impact the Bay today, just as the students of today will go on to make decisions that will impact our Bay and its watershed into the future. We want those decisions to be informed by and based on real-world knowledge and experiences. The creators of our education program dared to ask (and answer): What better way to impart that knowledge and provide those experiences than by giving students the chance to directly interact and connect with it…especially during the school day?

Above: Save The Bay Education Specialist Gráinne Conley
and a student from the Providence After School Alliance
seine for Bay creatures at Colt State Park. Below:
Students learn the role of plankton as the
building blocks of the Bay ecosystem in our plankton lab. 
Narragansett Bay is Rhode Island’s greatest natural resource, and Save The Bay’s educators use it as our classroom and natural laboratory every single day in partnership with local schools. We work closely with teachers to create a program that directly connects to their classroom curriculum, as well as state and national science standards. Our education vessels, technology, lab equipment, and Exploration Center and Aquarium give students authentic experiences through hands-on learning—core to the practice of environmental education and inherent in our education philosophy at Save The Bay. 

More than 15,000 students and hundreds of teachers work with us each year. There simply is no comparison between a student’s response to passive, old-school lecturing and the response we see from students in nature, challenged to use scientific instruments and the power of observation to unlock meaningful answers to questions about the world around them. Just as a talented classroom teacher energizes students with engaging, interactive activities, our education staff uses the natural classroom of our Bay and its watershed to guide students to new learning destinations. These types of experiences are essential in shaping the things we care about as adults. 

Although Narragansett Bay lies in Rhode Island, 60 percent of its watershed is in Massachusetts. Fall River, Mass. is the second largest city on Narragansett Bay, and the Taunton River is the largest freshwater input into our Bay. The fact is: the people of Massachusetts, even those who live miles and miles away from a waterfront view, will have either a positive or a negative impact on the health of Narragansett Bay. That’s why Save The Bay’s education team continues to renew and refresh its vision for Explore The Bay.

Today, we are making a deliberate effort to take our education programs to the students and teachers of Fall River and the Taunton River watershed over the coming years. Already, we’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm from Fall River education leaders and teachers about adding Save The Bay’s education program as a companion piece to their classroom curriculum. This past spring, we hosted students from The Resiliency High School who explored Narragansett Bay with us aboard our education vessel M/V Elizabeth Morris. Our trial of public seal tours in Fall River last spring were so successful that we are offering two full months of Fall River seal tours in March and April 2016. 

We hope this enthusiasm and excitement continues to thrive as we introduce more local students and families to the wonders of Narragansett Bay. After all, today’s youngsters will determine the health of our Bay and surrounding waters for generations to come.

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