About Our Curriculum

Estuary background image with color overlay

The reserve’s Estuaries 101 curriculum helps students and teachers understand the importance of estuaries and the intricate connections this resource has with ocean and climate systems. Teachers use this website to access middle- and high-school curriculum activities. Training programs are available from each reserve to help teachers understand how to best use the curriculum.

The Story Behind the Development of the Curriculum

The public is aware of ocean and coastal resources, but detailed knowledge is lacking. That’s why NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System built a national curriculum focused on estuaries. The Estuaries 101 curriculum helps teachers and students understand what estuaries are and their human benefits, how this resource is related to terrestrial and ocean systems, and why estuaries need to be restored and protected. Hopefully, a side benefit will be better decisions on both local and national levels.

The curriculum, designed for grades 6-12, features hands-on learning through experiments, fieldwork, and data explorations. The objective of the innovative and accessible curriculum is framed in terms of a driving question:

“How can this curriculum integrate student learning of estuarine concepts with the use of technology and current scientific data, in order to engage teachers and students in authentic science and environmental investigations?”

A systems approach to learning was employed, one that supports a flexible learning environment. Reserve sites provide living laboratories, accessible data, and real stories about scientific research that highlight the interplay between different components of the ecological system. Multiple media (i.e., web, video, and real-time data applications) provide a coordinated system to support student inquiry about estuaries.

With this curriculum, students will

  • Use various multimedia resources to explore and understand the role estuaries play in the lives of humans and other organisms
  • Learn about real scientific research stories from among the 29 reserves
  • Query observational platforms throughout the 29 research reserves from their classroom or home

With this curriculum, teachers will

  • Use research questions to guide student problem-solving within the context of curriculum lessons
  • Use estuaries as context for teaching big Ideas in Earth, life, and physical science
  • Integrate data into learning to enhance math and science skills

Use of the Estuaries 101 curriculum is supported through professional development trainings hosted at 29 reserves and at professional meetings across the nation.

Estuaries 101 Overview - PDF