Teacher Training Workshops

Workshop Calendar

Each year the National Estuarine Research Reserves offer numerous teacher trainings. One of the most popular and well attended is Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE). This research and field-based training program improves the teacher’s understanding of the environment using local research. The program also promotes the stewardship of watersheds and estuaries.

TOTE workshops are a minimum of 15 contact hours, giving teachers the opportunity to:

  • Explore coastal habitats and conduct field investigations
  • Interact with local scientists and experienced coastal educators
  • Integrate local and national monitoring data into the classroom
  • Learn hands-on field activities highlighting the Estuaries 101 curriculum

For More Information: Download the TOTE Information Sheet - PDF, see a sample workshop agenda - PDF, or view the calendar for upcoming workshop dates.

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Watch a video on Youtube to learn more about the Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshops.

Teachers on the Estuary Stories: Be Inspired

Find out what teachers who have participated in the Teachers on the Estuary training program have done with their newfound knowledge to improve their local watersheds and estuaries.

Click any of the state icons below to learn more.

Aerial view of estuary reserve

Teamwork Makes North Carolina’s Teachers on the Estuary Program a Success

The Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) program is a research and field-based teacher training initiative hosted by National Estuarine Research Reserves across the country. The program provides teachers with educational resources using local examples to support the incorporation of estuary and watershed topics into classroom teaching.

A dozen teachers from across North Carolina recently participated in a two-day TOTE workshop with representatives from the reserves’ four programs: education, training, research, and stewardship. The education staff kicked off day one with an estuarine habitat assessment exercise at the Rachel Carson Reserve, followed by a classroom session dedicated to the implementation of Estuaries 101 and North Carolina Reserve curriculums, specifically highlighting their relation to the North Carolina Essential Standards.

Day two began back at the reserve with research, training, and stewardship staff members taking the reins. Participants logged and collected 110 pounds of marine debris, played a watershed game focused on managing stormwater runoff, and took a boat cruise around the island while learning about the reserve’s System-Wide Monitoring Program that addresses a suite of coastal management issues as they relate to estuaries and watersheds.

The workshop concluded with participants’ feedback, which left reserve staff confident that this group of educators left inspired and more prepared to teach their students about estuaries.

"I enjoyed all of the hands-on activities designed to address several learning styles, grade levels, and N.C. standards."
"The hands-on, outdoor activities were great. Everything was very relevant."
"Being provided with resources and actually experiencing the activities and seeing/investigating the estuary."
"I enjoyed learning in the actual field and then coming back and doing lessons that apply."
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Woman speaking in front of screen during a Teachers on the Estuary workshop

Teacher Workshop Inspires New Policies at a Mobile Bay School to Foster Coastal Stewardship

Balloons are among the most abundant types of marine debris and pose a significant threat to marine animals that can ingest or become entangled in them. The Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, located in Alabama, developed a teacher workshop to help increase awareness of the issue.

Teachers on the Estuary, a teacher professional development program offered at National Estuarine Research Reserves around the nation, is a research and field-based teacher training initiative that promotes coastal stewardship. During the 2015 Weeks Bay Reserve Teachers on the Estuary workshop, teachers learned about the ecology of Mobile Bay and its connections to the Gulf of Mexico, reserve research and monitoring efforts, as well as human impacts to estuaries, including the balloon and marine debris issue. The workshop culminated in a stewardship planning activity where teachers worked in small groups to develop a plan to help students design and implement a strategy to solve this problem at their school and communities.

Following the workshop, the 14 teachers returned to their local schools inspired to tackle the issue with their students. The teachers from the Spanish Fort High School worked with students and administrators to teach them about the coastal impacts of balloon releases and to develop a new school policy that prevents all balloon releases on their school campus. By the time of the Spanish Fort High School graduation ceremony the new policy was in place, preventing the release of thousands of balloons into the local environment.

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Students and teacher discussing stewardship project  ideas outdoors

Students Build Interpretive Trail for Community Modelled After Waquoit Bay Reserve

Teachers at the Lawrence School in Falmouth, Massachusetts, have frequently partnered with the nearby Waquoit Bay Research Reserve to provide coastal education to their middle school students. However, it wasn’t until two teachers participated in a recent Teachers on the Estuary workshop that they were able to help their students put their coastal education into community action. After the workshop, the teachers returned to the reserve with their students to participate in a field trip to explore stewardship project ideas. The students were inspired by the reserve’s interpretive trails and asked teachers if they could develop their own interpretive signs for a coastal pond they were studying near their school. Using information and research provided by the reserve, the teachers and students designed and built a series of signs aimed at building community awareness and stewardship.

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Landscape photograph of estuary in South Carolina

Training Teachers to Capture the Science of the Salt Marsh through the Arts in Coastal South Carolina

Creating resilient communities in the face of natural disasters and long-term environmental change requires a scientifically informed and engaged public. Educating current and future coastal stewards is a process that begins in the classroom, as reflected in the new South Carolina academic standards for science.

Primary and secondary school teachers from across the state gathered in Georgetown, South Carolina, over the summer to get their creative juices flowing while learning valuable science, technology, engineering, and math skills in the salt marsh. Renowned batik artist Mary Edna Fraser, author Kevin Kurtz, artist Marie Nichols, and photographer Karen Beshears partnered with educators and researchers from South Carolina Sea Grant, and the North Inlet-Winyah Bay and ACE Basin Reserves to help these teachers integrate current estuary research into their classroom using various art techniques.

During the weeklong workshop, teachers monitored water quality, practiced story writing, and used photography, sketching, and watercolor to document their findings. Teachers also practiced using Estuaries 101 curriculum and NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer to bring real world data to their students. As a result of the workshop, several participants that teach art and science independently at the same schools formed “teaching teams” to incorporate their new findings into future school projects. Upon entering the new school year, teachers employed their newly found tools and techniques to inspire their students to serve as coastal stewards of the community.

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Landscape photograph of estuary with picnic table in Georgia

Sapelo Reserve’s Approach to Teacher Training Adds Value and Cuts Costs

The Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve has developed multi-partner teacher training opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of workshops while reducing the overall costs. The reserve and the University of Georgia Marine Extension have long offered the highly successful “Green Eggs and Sand” Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop to regional teachers. In 2013, the reserve partnered with Georgia Southern University to send a select subset of these teachers, chosen by the university, to a second workshop one month later.

This follow-up workshop, entitled “Blue Bloods and Red Knots of Sapelo Island: An Inquiry into Interdependence,” builds upon the first workshop but is geared toward teachers developing presentations, activities, and curriculum. The six-day workshop brings in the expertise of Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division to further develop learning principles and concepts. Activities take place on Sapelo Island, with the final day at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division headquarters and on board the Research Vessel Anna. The workshop reinforces lessons learned from the first meeting, and includes new lessons on barrier island dynamics, estuarine ecology, climate change, and fisheries.

Bringing on a diverse set of partners not only increases the instructor talent pool and broadens the knowledge base, but also greatly reduces overall program costs and individual staff time. These partnerships produce very high quality training to a growing audience. The Sapelo Island reserve hopes to continue this partnership and introduce new partners to its existing selection of teacher workshops.