Why Teach About Estuaries?

Estuary background image with color overlay

This curriculum helps teachers and students understand the nature and human benefits of estuaries, how this resource is related to terrestrial and ocean systems, and why estuaries need to be restored and protected. Estuaries offer a rich context for science education and interdisciplinary learning, as found in these examples:

  • Science: Estuaries integrate key concepts in biology, such as habitat adaptation, chemistry, such as salinity analysis, and physics, such as wave motion.
  • Math: Studying estuaries develops math skills through making detailed measurements, modeling phenomena, such as growth and cyclical variation, and analyzing data to make comparisons among estuaries.
  • Language: Students develop language skills as they read and write about estuary-related topics and communicate their explorations and findings with other students and scientists.
  • History and Geography: Estuaries played a significant role in human settlement, exploration, and development.

Most estuarine concepts and skills are part of the national and state science standards. For example, the national standards refer to understanding “Earth as a system,” with interwoven cycles and processes relating to land, air, and water. Furthermore, national standards call for building skills and knowledge through scientific investigation by providing a space for tackling complex ideas or problem solving, conducting hands-on experiments, making direct observations, and using data collectively—all of which occur as students explore estuaries. Students also gain an appreciation for the importance of estuaries and learn how their behavior impacts coastal ecosystems. We believe that it is of utmost importance to prepare tomorrow’s leaders to make sound decisions about the nation’s oceans and coasts.

Estuary Principles and Concepts - PDF