Guanaja Marine Science Education Collaborative (GMSEC)
Connecting Educators, Researchers and Students to Advance Marine Conservation and Educational Practice
Jo Codde, PhD
Guanaja is one of Honduras’ Bay Islands and is roughly 3 miles by 11 miles with a population of approximately 10,000 people who mostly live on Bonacca Cay off the main island. The primary source of income for islanders is fishing and shrimping, with a small, slowly growing tourism industry. The coral reefs of Guanaja are part of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system which starts in Belize and is the 2nd largest reef in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef. 70 kilometers off the north coast of Honduras, Guanaja is relatively insular. It has several religious schools, one bank, and one very rudimentary medical clinic. Guanaja provides a pristine environment where science education programs will benefit not only the local islanders but will also benefit Honduran and US teachers alike. There is no better time to implement programs that will empower the current generation of teachers and youth to advocate for their environment and lead to conservation.
The Codde Group is developing the Guanaja Marine Science Education Collaborative (GMSEC) connecting U.S. K-12 science teachers and students, as well university researchers, with Honduran classrooms. Honduran educators will select an area of focus for the school year and collaborate with their U.S. counterparts via a web portal to exchange information, lessons, resources, communication and mentoring. The GMSEC program will include a virtual exchange element throughout the school year and will culminate in a 2-3 week onsite summer camp held at Hotel Guanaja. The U.S. educators and researchers will join Honduran teachers and students for an experiential learning exchange. The summer camp will also provide teachers, university staff, students, and researchers the opportunity to conduct research.
GMSEC’s purpose is to empower a cohort of Honduran and U.S. teachers and their students to become leaders of marine conservation while leveraging Guanaja’s resources to advance studies in marine science. This and future cohorts will benefit from a cultural exchange and enriched science curriculum. GMSEC aims to enhance science teachers’ expertise through a cross-cultural exchange of best practices and curriculum development.
The GMSEC will begin with a pilot program in an effort to build a sustainable collaboration between Honduran and Guanaja educators in particular and U.S. teachers and researchers. Key components of the pilot program will be to:
- Identify core group of teachers (2-6) in Guanaja to participate, as well as serve as administrative level project support.
- Match (similar grade level and class size) a core group of teachers in United States to participate. These might be from various schools, but will preferably come from one school district in a US coastal area.
- Identify a core group of university researchers in the area of marine science.
- Assess national science education core curriculum standards and identify areas where the GMSEC program will enable teachers to create real-world activities, which can be transferred to their classrooms.
- Host a set of introductory webinars in which participants will create a project plan.
- Each Guanaja educator will choose and flesh out a project topic in marine conservation that will serve as curricular focus for the school year.
- Researchers will develop a research project that integrates with teacher topics.
- Teachers and researchers will collaborate throughout the year to build multidisciplinary curricular units and real world learning projects.
- Students from both countries will gain insights into the scientific process by sharing results.
- Establish a web-based portal for all participants to utilize throughout the school year.
- Establish regular communication schedule to include:
- Monthly teacher/researcher planning sessions via webinar
- Posting of curricular units, lessons, resources and best practices
- Updating of project plan
- Virtual “pen-pal” program for classroom students to participate in cultural and learning exchange
- Initiate marine research projects that serve as examples of rigorous scientific study and a source of real world experience for local teachers and students.
- Conduct a 2-3 week summer camp on Guanaja to complete a culminating activity and share their real world experiences.
- Provide teachers with the tools and experiences to enhance their classroom teaching of marine biology, conservation, the environment, and how man can impact the future of fragile environments.
- Designate participants who complete the program as GMSEC Fellows and Scholars. Teachers and educators will receive a certificate and be appointed as GMSEC Fellows and researchers will be appointed Scholars. The Fellows and Scholars will receive special recognition and be invited to present at conferences and advise and mentor new participants.
The overall goals for this project are to 1) engage teachers in meaningful science education that will both benefit their students and teachers with real world action research which include the skills for scientific inquiry and understanding and 2) engage students in real world programs and activities that will educate them on the marine environment and their role in protecting this important resource as well as generate interest in careers in marine conservation and STEM related careers.
If you would like additional information or are interested in learning how you can help us move this meaningful and important project forward please contact me!
Dr. Jo Codde, Senior International Education Consultant and CEO –
Codde Group, LLC