Now Available! Middle School Science Curriculum Highlights Ocean Modeling

“Modeling the Gulf: A Middle School Science Curriculum.” (Provided by CSOMIO)

“Modeling the Gulf: A Middle School Science Curriculum.” (Provided by CSOMIO)

Students’ engagement with science that connects with something that is relevant in their lives can increase the meaningfulness of science application and help solidify its importance. With that goal in mind, outreach coordinators and researchers with the Consortium for Ocean-Microbial Interactions in the Ocean (CSOMIO) developed a middle school science curriculum “Modeling the Gulf of Mexico” based on their efforts to improve oil transport and fate modeling. The curriculum targets students living in Florida and other Gulf states and introduce them to science that impacts their own lives.

“Our scientific team is working to produce a comprehensive framework for simulating and understanding the role that microbes play in mitigating the impacts of oil spills, so the topics covered in this curriculum align with that research,” said CSOMIO principal investigator Dr. Eric Chassignet.

The curriculum contains five complete lessons: “Go with the Flow,” “Oil Remediation,” “Visualizing Ocean Currents,” “The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem,” and “Refining an Ocean Model.” Each lesson includes materials such as teacher guides, student worksheets, maps (courtesy of Ocean Conservancy), and answer keys with grading rubrics.

The CSOMIO outreach team collaborated with educators to design lesson plans and activities that meet the Florida State Board of Education’s Standards for Science to ensure that the materials are easily used in Florida classrooms. The curriculum follows the “5E” instructional model, in which each “E” represents a different phase of the learning process: Engage (grab students’ interest), Explore (students self-study the material), Explain (students become more familiar with the material with teacher guidance), Elaborate (students apply what they learned), and Evaluate (students demonstrate their understanding of the material).

The CSOMIO outreach coordinators field-tested the lesson plans through a collaboration with Florida State University’s Sea-to-See program, which introduces students to Florida’s diverse marine life and promotes the importance of conservation. The curriculum also includes an “Accommodations” section in the appendices that offers vocabulary, modified questions, and alternate procedures for each lesson. These accommodations are designed to assist students who require a 504 Plan, an Individualized Education Plan, or who are learning English as a second language.

“Our intent was to provide practical lessons that can help make the complex world of computer modeling more approachable to middle grades students,” said CSOMIO science educator Karolyn Burns. “Ultimately, the feedback from both practicing teachers and oceanographic researchers was invaluable, and I hope that it proves useful to educators, as well as engaging for learners.”

“This middle school curriculum complements a high school science curriculum released in 2015 by the Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (Deep-C) consortium,” said Tracy Ippolito, who coordinated outreach for both Deep-C and CSOMIO. The Deep-C team compiled and developed the 144-page multi-disciplinary high school curriculum around the five main research areas of its consortium (geomorphology, geochemistry, ecology, physical oceanography, and modeling) and draws connections between science and real-world applications for handling issues such as environmental disasters, their ecosystem impacts, and recovery.

A downloadable PDF version of the CSOMIO middle school science curriculum is available at https://csomio.org/images/CSOMIO-MS-Curriculum_FINAL.pdf.

A downloadable PDF version of the Deep-C high school science curriculum is available at https://deep-c.org/images/curriculum/GoM-Curriculum_WEB-VERSION.pdf.

By Stephanie Ellis and Nilde Maggie Dannreuther. Contact sellis@ngi.msstate.edu for questions or comments.

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The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.

© Copyright 2010-2020 Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) – All Rights Reserved. Redistribution is encouraged with acknowledgement to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). Please credit images and/or videos as done in each article. Questions? Contact web-content editor Nilde “Maggie” Dannreuther, Northern Gulf Institute, Mississippi State University (maggied@ngi.msstate.edu).