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Raising Awareness in the Classroom about Natural Hazards Facing U.S. Coastal Communities

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On July 31, 2018, three members of the USGS field center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, presented newly developed education outreach materials at the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers (SSEATs) at the USGS Headquarters in Reston, Virginia. This year, SSEATs hosted twenty-five teachers from different regions of the U.S. in Washington, D.C., for a week-long series of courses designed to improve teacher understanding of scientific concepts and to equip them with tools and information to implement in their own classrooms. The themes of this year’s academy were Earth’s History and Global Change, including a Natural Hazards component that was the focus of the Woods Hole USGS team presentation. 

Photo of a woman giving a lecture in a hall with a slide projected on a large screen behind her.
Above: Meagan Gonnea discusses the processes that contribute to and erode coastal wetland systems.  Photo credit: Matt Arsenault. [larger version]

To kick off the Natural Hazards theme, Dave Applegate gave a presentation about the goals and mission of the USGS, followed by an overview presentation by John Haines describing some of the natural hazards facing U.S. coastlines today. Afterward, Meagan Gonneea, Neil Ganju, and Matt Arsenault presented a series of hands-on lessons and activities about coastal erosion, sea-level rise, and wetlands and estuaries that the Woods Hole staff developed in collaboration with Mark Carpenter at the American Geosciences Institute (AGI). First, the teachers learned about how USGS scientists observe coastal systems and the types of data collected to develop our models. In the second activity, teachers learned about web-based tools such as digital elevation models developed by the USGS to look at sea-level rise and shoreline change. In the third and final exercise, the teachers were asked to apply the knowledge they had developed in the first two activities to a series of scenarios facing a coastal community. Tasks ranged from making environmental and conservation decisions to economic planning and zoning.

Photo of a man giving a lecture in a hall pointing to a slide projected on a large screen behind him.
Above: Neil Ganju explains how lidar data is used to map marsh and estuary systems.  Photo credit: Matt Arsenault. [larger version]

The teachers were receptive and enthusiastic about the Natural Hazards outreach activities. Through this productive partnership between the USGS and AGI, we will continue collaborative efforts to develop educational programs that bring the important and societally relevant work of these organizations into the classroom.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Reaches Out to the Community
Nov. - Dec. 2017
By and For Teachers: Earth-Science Multimedia Educational Products
Oct. / Nov. 2010
Reaching Teachers: A Critical Link in Raising Awareness of Water-Resource Issues
Sept. 2008
ISIS Teachers Visit USGS Woods Hole Science Center
Aug. 2007
Partners for Ground-Water Education—Recent Teacher Workshops in Florida and California
Aug. 2005

Related Websites
Education Resources

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in this issue:

Cover Story Invasive Plants—Trapping Sediment that a Healthy Estuary Needs?

News Brief
News Briefs

Field Work
Recent Fieldwork

Raising Teachers' Natural Hazards Awareness for Coastal Communities

Staff amd Center News
Marine Ecologist Joins Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

New USGS Report on the Fault off California’s Big Sur Coast

Aug. Publications

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