Buoys In The Classroom

Using data in the classroom presents excellent opportunities for educators. A classroom of students excitedly sets out in canoes from the shores of the Potomac River. For weeks, they have been using the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) website to study the Chesapeake Bay and the scientific voyages of Captain John Smith in their classroom. Now it is time for them to paddle those same waters along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Offshore, they find the NOAA buoy that serves as a trail marker. They are eager to call into the buoy to get the real-time data for their data sheets and to hear the historical information for that site.

During their field experience, the students will take water quality measurements and make observations about what they see – bay grasses, crabs, jellyfish, blue heron, and more. Back in the classroom, the students will enter this information in their scientific journals and on the CBIBS website and compare it to other student data from around the Bay.

Once a dream to teachers and researchers, this scenario will become a reality this summer. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office in partnership with NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), teachers across the nation, is currently working to create a place-based curriculum about the Chesapeake Bay. This curriculum will use data from NOAA CBIBS, the NERRS System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP), the National Weather Service, and local monitoring systems from state resource agencies and universities.

Educators who use the new Estuaries 101: From the Coast to the Classroom curriculum and associated data will have the capability to guide their students in performing complex marine science investigations to solve exciting, authentic questions. In addition to place-based learning about the Chesapeake Bay, training for Estuaries 101 will give these teachers access to data from 104 water quality monitoring stations located in estuaries across the nation, each of which generates 96 data points every day of the year-enough data to answer many rounds of questions! Data exploration encourages deeper understanding and insight into natural processes that will allow students to move from learning general concepts to a personal understanding.