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#WeAreNMEA - Dieuwertje Kast

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Saturday, March 30, 2019

Dieuwertje KastDieuwertje Kast

STEM Programs Manager

University of Southern California’s (USC) Joint Educational Project
Los Angeles, CA

Dieuwertje Kast is the STEM Programs Manager for the University of Southern California’s (USC) Joint Educational Project. Through her efforts, she has provided STEM instruction to over 23,000 underrepresented minority students, 600 educators, 20 school principals, and countless community members. She coordinates supplemental science lessons for K-5 across a gamut of schools through the Wonderkids and Young Scientists Programs, and teaches college-preparatory science classes to high school students through USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a college preparatory program for low-income youth.

Dieuwertje received her Bachelors of Science in Biology, Masters in Science in Marine Environmental Biology in 2011, and her Masters in Arts and Teaching with Single Subject Science credential in 2014. She was trained as a marine biologist but noticed inequities at the faculty level when it came to women being represented and valued for their work. On the other hand, she had fantastic mentors in ocean education that truly supported her growth and saw her potential. These ladies included: Lynn Whitley, Linda Chilton, Lorraine Sadler, Terri Bidle and Dena Deck.

She now wants to share these concepts with others and consequently has presented dozens of STEM- and NGSS-based professional development sessions to pre-service and in-service educators both in schools and at local, national and international conferences. She is also a marine biology instructor for the Ernest Everett Just Youth Science Program, which is designed to expose dozens of minority students to careers and academic pursuits STEM careers and is dedicated to Dr. Ernest Everett Just, a pioneering African American biologist, who received international acclaim for work in marine biology.

NAI scholars during their ocean research methods courseQuetzalli Vergara uses her dive slate to take measurements during her snorkel on Catalina Island as part of the Ocean Research Methods course

During the summer, Dieuwertje is an instructor for the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative and teaches an ocean research methods course. Students learn introductory ocean research skills and test them out at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. Their projects then culminate in a research poster that they present to the rest of the class. Out on Catalina, many students see the ocean for the first time and almost all of the participating students have their first snorkeling experience. This class, besides being a passion project with her background in marine biology, is addressing the systematic problem of swimming being an access issue. In order to teach their kids how to swim, families would have to pay for access to a pool (gym membership, etc.) as well as an instructor, and these luxuries are not able to be prioritized for low-income families who are trying to put food on the table.

DJ and family in costumeHer educational philosophy is focused on hands-on, inquiry-based and authentic STEM learning experiences. This passion for STEM education is reflected not only in her work but also with her science-themed wardrobe that she wears to all her teaching and community events! Her dresses are themed to the science being taught to inspire all participating stakeholders.

Dieuwertje is also the Expanding Audiences Committee chair for NMEA. A strategic goal of NMEA is to increase the number of members who represent and/or educate underrepresented minorities including, but not limited to people of color, indigenous people, island people, international communities, inland areas, and English-language learners. As part of the committee, we are working to bring in more diverse audiences.If you are interested in working with the Expanding Audiences Committee, contact DJ for more information!

Connect with Dieuwertje

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Instagram icon  @djscience7

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#WeAreNMEA Guest Blog - Take Action for World Water Day with the EarthEcho Water Challenge

Posted By Sean Russell, Monday, March 18, 2019

Sean RussellSean Russell

EarthEcho Water Challenge Manager

EarthEcho International, Englewood, FL

On this World Water Day, March 22, I challenge NMEA members and their students to take action to protect our water planet through the EarthEcho Water Challenge. Kicking off annually on the United Nations World Water Day, the EarthEcho Water Challenge equips young people with the tools to test local water quality, share their findings though a global database, and use their data to inform actions they can take to protect their waterways. By participating, students join over 1.5 million participants from 146 countries who have monitored local waterways through this program.

EarthEcho Water Challenge YouthThis World Water Day, and throughout the year, you can take action through three easy steps:

  1. Visit to order an EarthEcho Water Challenge test kit and download our guide to help you plan your monitoring event. Or use your own water quality testing equipment/kits.
  2. Conduct your water quality monitoring and share your data at
  3. Take action to improve water health in your community!

Through the EarthEcho Water Challenge, we encourage participants to share the stories of their findings and unique water resources, the challenges they face, and the efforts of students and community members to restore these important bodies of water.

EarthEcho Water ChallengeAs we kick-off the 2019 EarthEcho Water Challenge this World Water Day, I’m excited to share the release of the new EarthEcho Water Challenge Action Portal. This platform, which can be accessed at, highlights stories of Water Challenge participants who have carried out diverse waterway conservation projects, and shares their tips, advice, and action steps to help inspire others to replicate their efforts. Participants also have the option to submit their own water quality action projects to be featured through the portal. I hope you’ll join us in taking action this World Water Day, and throughout the year, to work with your students and community members to monitor and protect your local waterways. Be sure to join the conversation on March 22 with hashtag #MonitorWater and follow EarthEcho on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more.

Connect with Sean

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Instagram icon  @sean_russell92
Twitter logo @seandrussell

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#WeAreNMEA - Laura Bracken Chaibongsai

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Monday, March 11, 2019

Laura Bracken ChaibongsaiLaura Bracken Chaibongsai

Program Director

Miami Waterkeeper
Miami, FL

Laura Bracken Chaibongsai is an informal, marine science educator who specializes in citizen science and hands-on research experiences. She just recently dove into a new role as the Program Director for Miami Waterkeeper, directing their extensive suite of engaging programs designed so local citizens can take an active role in protecting Biscayne Bay and the surrounding watershed. They are training citizens how to identify and report environmental issues in their communities, conducting a high school leadership course, and sharing water quality data through the free Swim Guide app.

Current GoMRI Issue CoverPreviously, Laura was the Program & Outreach Manager for the CARTHE Consortium at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, working to increase the visibility of CARTHE, inspire young scientists, and bring awareness to environmental issues through innovative educational programs for all ages. Laura was part of the team of GoMRI Outreach Managers who recently published a special issue of the NMEA journal Current, featuring information on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the important science resulting from the disaster. NMEA members can access the Current journal on our website for articles and lesson plans. (Not a member yet? Join here!)

Laura received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts degree in Marine Affairs & Policy from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School.

Connect with Laura

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Instagram icon  @laurachai
Twitter logo @laurachai

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From the Editor - Winter issue of Current is now available online for members

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Winter Current - GoMRI IssueFrom the Editor: We’re excited to bring you this special issue of Current featuring the research and educational activities resulting from science funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).

In this special issue, you’ll find a variety of engaging articles, addressing some of the overarching questions about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and how GoMRI science is working to answer them. From Where did the oil go? and What happened to the ecosystem as a result of the oil? to the new technologies that have been developed to better understand impacts from the oil spill, and much more. You’ll also find a selection of GoMRI-funded research and education resources that can be incorporated into classroom teaching.

We hope you enjoy this special issue and find it to be a useful resource in your classroom.

Access the latest issue of Current—happy reading!

Interested in submitting an article to Current? Guidelines for submissions are available  here >

Not a member yet? Join NMEA and receive access to Current, as well as all our other member benefits, here >

Tags:  Current 

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Summit for Ocean Literacy Under Sail

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Nancy Richardson launches the summitIt takes one person with passion to create change. Nancy Richardson, one of the earliest members of NMEA, brought together a community of NMEA educators and partners to share ocean literacy principles with colleagues who are involved in Tall Ships America ‘Adventure and Education Under Sail.’ These folks know the sea and have an intimate connection with the sea, as part of their daily lives.

45 participants and ten volunteers arrived early to San Pedro for the Tall Ships America 46th Annual Conference, Raising our Sails, Raising a Workforce to participate in a daylong Summit for Ocean Literacy Under Sail. Learning quickly got underway with hands-on investigations guided by local Southern California experts Kurt Holland, Dena Deck, Annie Richardson, Peter Falcon, Kalina Valev, Linda Chilton, Mark Friedman, Nina Quaratella, and Gwen Noda. Each facilitator enabled participants to become engaged with the bigger ideas of each of the seven ocean literacy principles.  These educators shared their expertise and passion for ocean literacy at stations designed to connect ocean literacy with experiences aboard Tall Ships from charting a course across one ocean or exploring the diversity of biofouling communities or supporting youth in taking action to address human impacts of microplastics.

Ocean Literacy Principle 1Ocean Literacy Principle 2Ocean Literacy Principle 3 Ocean Literacy Principle 4-5Ocean Literacy Principle 6Ocean Literacy Principle 7

Lynn Whitley shared an over view of the history, impacts, and resources associated with Ocean Literacy to tie the individual stations together followed by a session of brainstorming on how put ocean literacy into action after the Summit. This forum provided an opportunity to share challenges, strategies and needs for Ocean Literacy implementation efforts once at home aboard ship or alongside on shore. This list of ideas as well as other resource links for each session and photos will be posted for all at

No day of ocean literacy would be complete without applying new knowledge. As we readied to depart for Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, we found our numbers had grown. The morning session was joined by many others (recruited from morning participants’ enthusiasm) with a walking tour to the Salinas de San Pedro Saltmarsh and a behind the scenes guided tour of the Aquarium concluding with a visit to the library. It was evident participants loved applying knowledge by doing. Conversations explored how cultural, historical, and spiritual connections naturally intersect with life sciences!

Focusing binocularsSalinas de San Pedro SaltmarshImmersed

Nancy’s goal of bringing together communities to share ideas, to network and in the process make one another stronger was a resounding success. Alice Cochran, leadership and governance consultant and Tall Ships America member, and Nancy demonstrated the power of joining efforts with an ‘energy stick.’

Energy Stick in actionIn order to extend the ocean literacy and networking discussion, Lynn, Nancy, Dena and Linda set up an NMEA exhibit hall table on Tuesday. Later in the day, Nancy and Dena Deck led a general session to debrief and plan next steps from the Summit. Topics of discussion for next steps included supporting Ocean Literacy with youth-of-all-ages through citizen science, inclusive engagement, workforce development, STEAM competencies, and environmentally sustainable practices.

Hopefully, these discussions will continue on a local level, in the regional chapters of NMEA reaching out and welcoming Tall Ships staff and volunteers and we will continue to strengthen the effort toward ocean literate communities as we reach into UNESCO’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development with its inclusion of Ocean Literacy! The Tall Ships America community is looking forward to working more closely with NMEA. We’ll try to promote attendance at regional meetings and supporting a session at the NMEA conference. Three new NMEA members and three new members of Tall Ships America are very excited to participate with the memberships that each organization donated which were distributed during the session wrap up.

Wrapping upWe networked with people representing a multitude of perspectives and affiliations from the Sail Training International, US Coast Guard Academy and USCG Barque EAGLE; USC Sea Grant Program, USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, NAMEPA, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, NMEA Ocean Literacy Committee, Mystic Seaport Museum’s Schooner BRILLIANT; US Park Service; NASA-JPL; Galveston’s Barque ELISSA (sailing with astronauts!); Sail2Change; Girl Scouts; Sea Scouts; the LAMI TopSail Youth Program on Brigantines IRVING JOHNSON and EXY JOHNSON, and many more!

Lifelong lessons learned through sailing together strengthen Leadership~TeamShip~Stewardship!

We’re all ‘shipmates’ sailing Planet Ocean...
Let’s sail in harmony with science and spirit at sea and ashore!

Tags:  Ocean Literacy 

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#WeAreNMEA - Experience a Coast Encounter Of The Maine Tide with Carol Steingart

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Saturday, February 23, 2019

Carol SteingartCarol Steingart


Coast Encounters, LLC
Wells, ME

Carol Steingart is a marine science educator who has been conducting intertidal programs for over 20 years. Carol, also known as “Coastal Carol,” fell in love with the marine world when she first went to the Shoals Marine Laboratory as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire in 1977. Having grown up on the flat, sandy beaches of Long Island, NY, she was immediately captivated by the rocky shoreline of Maine and the critters quietly hiding under the rocks. After working in the freshwater streams of New Hampshire in the 70s, and in the music recording engineering field in the 80s, she returned to her passion in the tide pools of Maine when she was asked to bring in some sea creatures to her daughter’s second grade class. Her presentation on tide pool critters was so good, the teachers asked her back year after year. Today, Carol offers unique intertidal excursions on the Maine coast to small groups and brings the tide pools to schools and other locations.

Coast Encounters Logo

Carol’s favorite marine creature is the horseshoe crab. Her passion for horseshoe crabs comes alive each spring during the brief spawning season when she offers a special program featuring these “prehistoric helmets of the sea.”

Carol holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Conservation from the University of New Hampshire. She is a 16-year Shoals Marine Lab faculty member and a lifetime member of the National Marine Educators Association. Carol is also a past-president and lifetime member of the Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association. She holds a Maine state license to collect intertidal organisms for educational purposes. Coast Encounters is the only business of its kind in the state of Maine.

Intertidal BuffetWhen the rocky shore becomes inaccessible in winter, you can find Carol indoors leading cooking classes on the versatility of sea vegetables, which are nutrient packed and surprisingly delicious! Carol incorporates local algal species in her diet on a regular basis.

Whether she is leading excursions to the rocky shore or carting intertidal critters in her traveling touch tank to classrooms, libraries, assisted living facilities, or outdoor festivals, kids and grown-ups of all ages love Carol’s enthusiastic approach to hands-on learning.

Pointing out marine lifeInstilling a sense of wonderSeniors love marine life

Coast Encounters Mission Statement: “Hands-on learning with live ocean creatures fosters a lasting and heartfelt connection, which then becomes the springboard for advocacy.”

Connect with Carol

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Website icon
Facebook logo @CoastEncounters
Instagram icon  @CoastEncounters
Trip Advisor icon  Trip Advisor: Coast Encounters - Wells, Maine

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#WeAreNMEA - Dijanna Figueroa

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Sunday, February 17, 2019

Dijanna FigueroaDijanna Figueroa

Upper School Science and Director of Lucas Scholars STEAM Program

St. Matthew's Parish School
Pacific Palisades, CA

Dijanna Figueroa has made a career of exploring the mysteries of the deep. She was featured in James Cameron’s documentary Aliens of the Deep, which follows Cameron and NASA scientists as they explore the some of the deepest parts of the ocean and learn about the unique life forms that inhabit those spaces. Recently, Figueroa has become an advocate for STEAM education—adding art and design to the science, technology, engineering, and math equation. She’s spent more than two decades teaching STEAM to grades K–8 in the greater Los Angeles area, formerly served as global director of the Muse School National Geographic Society’s Green STEAM program and has advisory roles with many STEM/STEAM nonprofits. She was recently featured on MTV’s Women Crush Wednesdays Women in STEM series. She currently teaches middle school science at St. Matthew's Parish School and runs programs that teach students how to fly drones, scuba dive and build underwater robots. If that isn’t enough, Figueroa is the director of the Lucas Scholars STEM program, a community based social justice and equity program designed to engage young people in science, engineering, design, and art. She loves the ocean and is committed to making ocean science accessible to all people.

Dijanna Figureoa SCUBA poolDijanna Figueroa Lucas Scholars

Pictured above: Diving Enrichment Educational Program SCUBA Class (left) and Lucas Scholars Summer Social Justice STEM Program (right)

Connect with Dijanna

Instagram icon  @deepoceandoctor
Twitter logo @drdijanna

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#WeAreNMEA - Fostering Ocean Literacy in Asia with Tsuyoshi Sasaki

Posted By Jennifer Magnusson, Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tsuyoshi SasakiTsuyoshi Sasaki 佐々木剛

Professor, Department of Ocean Policy and Culture

Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
Tokyo, Japan

Dr. Tsuyoshi Sasaki is a Professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and Director of the Japan Aquatic Marine Environmental Education Association since 2006. His responsibilities are to link scientists, government, schools, and communities on issues ranging from aquaculture to water quality to fisheries and ecotourism across different disciplines to solve problems that stretch from the mountains to the coast. Taking this community-ecosystem-based approach, it is the idea that aquatic marine environmental education programs will integrate environmental, economic, and social expertise to find local sustainable solutions. Dr. Sasaki is also the Chairman of the Asia Marine Educators Association (AMEA).

Asia marine educators connected with Ocean Literacy

Dr. Sasaki describes the importance of his work in Ocean Literacy:

“Although we all have different individualities with respect to each other, at the root of all of our lives is a connection with nature. In particular, without the sea we cannot live. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that all humans are connected via the sea. In that sense, Ocean Literacy has an important role to remove the boundaries of our mind and to connect each of us to others throughout the world. In this way, the significance of Ocean Literacy cannot be overstated.

Our group is working with Forest-River-Ocean Nexus Education, FRON-E. By waking up the consciousness of these connections, a fundamental relationship with nature will be nurtured and a society of sustainable peace can be developed. It is an important role of marine educators in Asia to engage in regional educational activities for that purpose.”

Pictured below are the Japan-Taiwan Forest-River-Ocean Nexus exchange program (left) and the Japan-Indonesia Forest-River-Ocean Nexus student exchange program (right).

Japan-Taiwan Forest-River-Ocean Nexus exchange programJapan-Indonesia Forest-River-Ocean Nexus student exchange Program

Connect with Tsuyoshi

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Twitter logo @Hypomesus2

Tags:  #WeAreNMEA  International  Ocean Literacy  WeAreNMEA 

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#WeAreNMEA - Joey Noelle Scott

Posted By Joey Noelle Scott, Thursday, January 31, 2019

Joey Noelle ScottJoey Noelle Scott

Supervisor of Teacher Programs

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey, CA

My journey to marine education started in college - 100 miles away from the ocean. Like many 20-year-olds, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was majoring in genetics when a friend talked me into an internship working with a 3rd-grade teacher on a science curriculum project. I quickly fell in love with education, teaching, and saw the need for science education. After finishing my degree, I went to graduate school for my Master’s in Education. The program, at the University of California - Santa Cruz, had a strong focus on social justice and inquiry-based instruction, which has significantly impacted my work to this day. I taught in public elementary and middle schools teaching science and using science to teach other content areas. In 2009, I joined the Peace Corps and served two years in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa. As a volunteer, I worked to support elementary teachers, helped train new volunteers who would serve as English teachers, and learned to speak basic Sesotho (Lumela!). Shortly after I returned to the States, I started working in the Teacher Programs Department at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In addition to my role leading teacher institutes and workshops, I’ve been able to work on some pretty innovative projects.

Kelp Forest e-BookKelp Forest Game Screen

I help manage all of the curriculum available on our website, but developing our two digital curriculum products -- an ebook and accompanying app -- was new for all of us. They are designed to help kids learn more about the amazing animals that live in the kelp forest ecosystem. They are free, interactive, and device-neutral. In addition to some great artwork, they help kids see the biotic and abiotic components and their interactions in this system.

MBA Teacher WorkshopLately I've also been working with a group of folks on a new program model that brings local environmental education providers together with classroom teachers. With training by and for each other, they work collaboratively to build a unit that includes both inside- and outside-the-classroom experiences. These activities are relevant to the students they serve and include authentic scientific experiences. This program will start its third year this summer and the evaluations so far have been pretty inspiring. We're hoping to share our experience with this program at the NMEA conference in June!

I am also the president of SWMEA (Southwest Marine/Aquatic Educators Association) this year and have the pleasure of working with amazing people from all over the region in sharing best practices and building community. Join your local NMEA chapter if you haven't already and hope to see you all in New Hampshire at #NMEA19!

Connect with Joey:

Twitter logo @joeyelle
Instagram logo @joeyelle

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#WeAreNMEA - Jaime Thom

Posted By Jaime Thom, Monday, January 28, 2019

Jaime ThomJaime Thom

School Programs Manager

South Carolina Aquarium
Charleston, SC

I began my marine educator career as a School Programs Intern at the South Carolina Aquarium in 2001. I now manage that same program and have been with the Aquarium for over 15 years!

As the School Programs Manager, I run the Aquarium's school programs, which teach school-age children science topics in a fun, hands-on way. Students can interact with animals as well as participate in fun labs to learn about everything from habitats to sea turtle rehabilitation.
I am also in charge of teacher workshops, curriculum writing and teaching programs. I lead a staff of 15 fantastic educators who spend everyday "making people's day" here at the Aquarium.

Jaime Thom teaching a invertebrate lessonThe best part of my job as a marine educator is that no single day is like any other. One day I could spend writing a new lesson for kindergarten students and the next day I could be teaching a group of high school students about sea turtle rescue and rehab. Then I might get to run a teacher workshop before switching gears and walking around the Aquarium with a snake for our visitors to see. Never a dull moment and we always say, "there is no such day as a typical day". I love that about my job!

Because of this, I get to interact with many people throughout our community as well as around the US and the world. If a handful of them learn to appreciate the environment and find a way to make it better, I've done my part.

Most recently we've added a stronger message about plastic pollution to our school programs. Everyone has heard, "pick up trash" or "don't litter", which are both great messages that we continue to share, but now we are adding in more specifics about decreasing single use plastic and saying no to straws. From our kindergarten programs that focus on habitats to our high school programs that focus on sea turtles, we are hoping to make a difference by planting the seeds of conservation.

Connect with Jaime:

Email icon
Facebook logo Jaime Coomes Thom

Tags:  WeAreNMEA 

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