Magazine Post: Enhancing Marine-Based Education

Enhancing Marine-Based Education

How Strategic Partnerships Lead to Success

By Fred Garth

Guy Harvey Research Institute and Oceanographic Center

There’s a famous photo of a grizzly bear cub standing in the river next to a fly fisherman. The little cub says, “You give me half the fish, and I’ll tell my mom not to eat you.”

That, my friends, is a successful partnership. 

Microsoft founder Bill Gates put it this way: “Our success in business has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.”

So when we at the Guy Harvey organization set out to ramp up our education outreach in a mega-major way, we realized that flying solo wasn’t a great strategy. Instead, our No. 1 goal was to create partnerships with like-minded organizations. As American author Warren G. Bennis said, “Savvy leaders will create alliances with other organizations whose fates are correlated with their own.” 

That’s why one of the GHOF’s first moves was to visit Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. When Dr. Harvey and his CEO, Steve Roden, met the governor, they presented both the need for improved marine conservation curricula and the willingness to go do something about it. Apparently they made an impression because DeSantis instructed his chief of staff to begin connecting the dots with key stakeholders in both education and conservation. This led to meetings and collaborations with the Florida Department of Education standards team and meetings with the Florida Virtual School leadership. With a strong desire to take this program beyond the boundaries of Florida, Roden reached out to the leadership team of Discovery Education, the largest digital publisher in the world in the K-12 space. Within a few weeks, a deal was struck. Next came the partnership with the Florida Virtual School. Then a collaboration with the curriculum specialists at Ocean First Education. To wrap a big bow around it all, Guy brought in his longtime education partner, Nova Southeastern University, home of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Oceanographic Center.

After that, the list of willing collaborators continued to pile up — the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, the Everglades Foundation, NOAA, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the National Parks Conservation Association … you get the idea. 

The point is: Most everyone wanted to join the GHOF efforts to support students and teachers. 

The problem is: Many teachers aren’t provided the tools and resources to deliver compelling marine-related subjects to their students. 

The good news is: The GHOF is actively changing that with the help of these strategic partners. 

In the following paragraphs, I will happily elaborate on the forward-thinking companies and organizations that have come together for an ambitious and necessary project: to transform marine science and conservation education in the state, nation and world.

Discovery Education

With access to 50 million students and five million teachers across 90 countries, Discovery Education is a behemoth in the education sector. Yet, strangely, when we approached them, they didn’t have a marine science course. They wanted to develop one, and the GHOF was just the group to bring that guppy home. In the meantime, DE created a GHOF “channel,” with more than 50 educational videos and virtual field trips that meet many state and national standards. Hitting the standards is key for teachers. They not only have to educate their students, but they also have specific benchmarks set by each state that they must reach.

The GHOF channel includes Jessica Harvey’s Expedition Notebook — bite-sized, 1-to-4-minute-long videos that are fun, exhilarating, educational and narrated by Jessica (Guy’s daughter) in her pleasing Caribbean dialect. The Expedition Notebooks are all being produced to meet curriculum standards and cover topics ranging from coral reef restoration to ocean acidification to plastics in the ocean. And, of course, there’s plenty of fast-paced shark content as well. Tiger sharks, lemon sharks, oceanic white tips, white sharks and the lovable giant of the sea, whale sharks, are all part of the elasmobranch family of films that students and teachers can enjoy on the DE platform.

Also coming soon to DE’s marine portfolio is a new Guy Harvey Edition of Ocean First’s Marine Science 1 course. This is a full-blown, standards-based curriculum developed by the educational gurus at Ocean First Education and enhanced with Guy Harvey footage, art and images. Teachers can use the MS1 course in the classroom or virtually to inspire their students and educate them about the wonders and challenges facing the planet’s waters.

So whether it’s a Virtual Field Trip, an Expedition Notebook or a Marine Science 1 course, the partnership between GHOF and DE is bearing fruit and providing a rich educational environment for teachers and students around the world.

DiscoveryEducation.com

Nova Southeastern University (NSU) 

Guy Harvey swimming with a blue marlin.

Back in 1999, Guy teamed up with the scientists at NSU to form the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI). Being a Ph.D., Guy knew the value of having the university system in his corner. The overarching concept the GHRI promotes is that conservation begins with data collection. In other words, you can’t fix a problem you haven’t thoroughly and scientifically evaluated. For example, sharks travel far and wide — thousands of miles — in a single year. We know this because the GHRI scientists at NSU have been affixing satellite tags to sharks for two decades. See: GHRItracking.org.

They’ve tagged shortfin makos, tigers, oceanic white tips, not to mention blue marlin and a host of other billfish. So, now we have 20 years of real, scientific data to use to protect sharks and billfish. Because sharks and billfish don’t recognize international borders, it’s up to us humans to find out which country’s waters they inhabit or pass through. That way, we can lobby those governments to protect sharks and billfish because we know where they go, why they go there and generally what they’re doing, which is usually either feeding or mating.

Speaking of mating, a worst-case scenario in marine conservation is to fish an area when the sea life is spawning. Case in point are the Nassau grouper spawning aggregation sites, also known as SPAG sites. Because of overfishing, most of the Nassau grouper SPAG sites around the Caribbean have been wiped out. In Little Cayman, a grouper study was initiated 18 years ago in conjunction with the GHRI. They lobbied the Department of the Environment to close the SPAG site to fishing during the spawning season, which happens during a 3–4 day period, at dusk/night for the January and February full moons. If you’re a diver, this one of the wildest scenes you’ll ever witness, watching 5,000 to 10,000 agitated grouper all bunched up on one reef and going through color changes from brown to black to white and then swirling up into a sort of fish tornado, spinning from the bottom to the surface. The bizarre ritual culminates when the females spew out millions of eggs, known as broadcast spawning. In sequence, the males release a seminal fluid called milt, which contains sperm to fertilize the eggs. Again, grouper conservation began with data. Now, Little Cayman is brimming with Nassau grouper just from closing the site for that short period of spawning.

Guy Harvey in a grouper spawning aggregation site in Little Cayman

In some 20 years, the dedicated team at the GHRI at NSU have published more than 135 peer-reviewed papers. That’s a lot of data, which has led to some pivotal conservation efforts. NSU is also bringing the power of teacher credentialing and hosting teacher workshops for the Guy Harvey Education Initiative. The Oceanographic Center is set on the Atlantic Ocean and provides a perfect venue to bring in teachers and students for an inspirational marine-related session. Not only is the goal to inspire teachers and give them relevant teaching tools to take back to the classroom, but teachers can also gain certifications in marine science and conservation, allowing them to retain or renew their required teaching status.

Tiger Shark, Bahamas, Photo by yfhishinuma / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Florida Department of Education

As I revealed earlier in this little encomium, Dr. Harvey met with Gov. DeSantis pre-COVID to discuss marine conservation and education — two subjects that both men hold deeply in their hearts. Subsequently, the GHOF partnered with the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) to develop much-needed marine science and conservation curricula.

State curriculum gurus PJ Duncan and Jennifer Infinger, who develop and manage curriculum for the DOE, were immediately on board and came up with the bright idea of a Guy Harvey Collection, as in, an art collection. Our GHOF education director, Valerie Gaynor, a renowned Florida science teacher in her own right and now the science supervisor for Martin County, also jumped aboard the collection’s ship. Valerie wasted no time assembling a team of 10 talented teachers to help develop the first Guy Harvey Collection. In the beginning, they discussed a variety of Guy’s artistic subjects to build the courses around. They threw out lionfish (not literally), blue marlin and turtles but ultimately decided upon sharks due to their insane popularity, viral potential and because, sadly, they’re the most threatened species in the ocean.

So, there you have it. The concept was cemented, and the first Guy Harvey Collection is in development. The team is building three iterations to hit all ages: K–4th grade, 5th–8th grade and a high school version. 

STEAMposium 

STEAMposium keynote speaker, Guy Harvey, with a lionfish.

That leads us to another brainchild of Team Duncan and Infinger, the STEAMposium. For the uninitiated, STEAM means Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Traditionally, the core of education has been based on STEM but the “A”, has been popping up a lot more lately to represent art, something Guy and his company have plenty of experience with.

The STEAMposium is a three-day gathering of some 800–1,000 Florida teachers that Duncan and Infinger created three years ago. It was planned for June 2020 before COVID-19 derailed it. Dr. Guy Harvey was slated to be the keynote speaker along with the possibility of Gov. DeSantis attending. That all fell through like most every other event on the planet in 2020, but a new plan was hatched for STEAMposium 2021.

Guy Harvey is still on the agenda. The governor is still invited. It’s still going to be in June. This time, however, we anticipate more than 1,000 teachers as the brand new Guy Harvey Shark Collection is unveiled. Yep, the STEAMposium is going to be a crowd-pleasing affair, with electricity in the air and the state’s top science teacher putting out seriously positive vibes around some cool new courses.

FloridaSteamposium.org

STEAMinars

Because the STEAMposium had to be postponed, the Guy Harvey education braintrust collaborated with Discovery Education’s Florida team, Dan Gammage and Jeanette Russell, to create monthly Zoom meetings featuring Guy and Jessica Harvey talking about marine life — all while Guy paints an original work of art. The 90-minute online sessions are aimed at teachers who want to improve their skills and learn more about Guy’s education initiatives. The STEAMinars began in August and run through December, one per month on Thursday afternoons. The schedule is below:

Florida Virtual School (FLVS)

No relationship with the FLDOE is complete without including the FLVS (see article page 27). Even though FLVS is its own entity with somewhat sprawling offices in Orlando, the school is part of the state’s education system. The leadership at FLVS is quick to point out that it is just like any other public school — except it’s all virtual. It’s also Florida’s largest school with more than 200,000 students and 1,800 teachers.

Their interest in Guy Harvey is all about amazing content. While FLVS has a Marine Science 1 course, they wanted to revamp it. We agreed that the best way to do that would be to add heart-stopping footage of sharks, rays, turtles, coral reefs and everything that Guy Harvey represents. That collaboration on Marine Science 1 led to an entirely new course for FLVS — Environmental Science presented by the GHOF. Both courses are currently in development and will be ready for primetime this spring, and they will be available free to any student in Florida.

The future partnership with GHOF and FLVS is likely to deepen, and there are discussions of marine-related courses translated into Spanish and other languages, as well as integrating Guy Harvey assets across the entire STEAM spectrum of FLVS’s courseware. 

Conclusion

A marine science and conservation education program that was initiated more than 20 years ago by Dr. Guy Harvey is now on a fast track to spread across Florida, the nation and the globe. This has only been possible because of the partnerships that have been created among like-minded organizations focused on enhancing the educational experience for both students and teachers. 

If someone you know (maybe you!) is ready to join in our efforts, please reach out to us at: [email protected].  

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