Marine; Teaching; Interdisciplinary; Ocean; Sustainability; Honors
This class is the second project under the new Honors Program initiative, Students Teaching Students (STS). STS was brought to URI and implemented by Bridget Griffith as part of her Senior Honors Project in 2011. Students apply in their Junior year to design, research, and teach an honors course on a topic about which they are passionate. The STS program allows motivated honors students to have a unique opportunity to lead a class as student professors. This allows students a freedom of creativity on the topic, assignments, and teaching style. Drawing on our own experiences, we were able to create a discussion-based class that engaged the students in a more relatable way than “chalk-talk.” After all, who better to know what teaching style is effective than students themselves?
Though we come from different backgrounds and fields of study, the three of us were originally brought together through a passion for the ocean and concern for the issues it faces. The ocean plays a big part in everyone’s lives, whether they realize it or not. However, the importance of the ocean cannot simply be examined through a microscope. To truly see the subtle and complex effect the ocean has on Earth, it needs to be seen as a player in the dynamic relationship between man and nature. This relationship is of an interdisciplinary nature and affects us all, so what issues the ocean faces concerns everyone on many different levels. Pollution, climate change, coastal development, and overfishing are four such issues that we address in the classroom. We think it is important to educate our world’s future leaders on not just ocean science, but the politics, the social implications, and the solutions for our future.
Based on our diverse educational backgrounds, we created a basic syllabus and selected the presentation topics we had the most experience with and knowledge of. Our main focus for this course was to maximize what students took away from each class and connect that to what the ocean means to them. Working closely with our team of faculty advisors, we developed multiple drafts of presentations and assignments in order to improve how we communicated the information. Along with each presentation, we made it a focus to include discussion-based sections, in which we asked students for their input. From what we’ve gathered in our own education, the best way to engage in new material is to interactively make connections to past experiences and knowledge already gained. In addition to our assignments and the presentations themselves, we also invited scholarly guest speakers who had a connection with the topics we covered in the course. These included professionals specialized in science communication, marine nutrient pollution, and climate change in global communities. Although we all specialized in different areas, we worked together to offer this course and take responsibility for teaching and leading our students through complex issues, while growing as educators. It was our overall goal to inspire the students about the aesthetic value of the ocean and to cultivate a fondness towards ocean conservation. We hope that the experiences we’ve had teaching this course will inspire future students to become active on topics important to them and perhaps choose to educate others as we have done through the Students Teaching Students program.