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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

TOTE 2013: Climate Stewards in Action!

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | August 1, 2013

"We have the opportunity to re-invent the world."

That was a final thought from one participant at the end of last week's Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop here at the Reserve. After four busy days of guest speakers, hands-on activities, and visits to field research sites, the eight middle and high school educators hailing from states along the east coast from Maine to Florida shared their ideas for implementing stewardship projects in their own schools and communities.

TOTErs measure water quality parameters on the marsh

This year's TOTE Climate Stewards in Action workshop focused on the topics of climate change and ecosystem services. Cameron Wake, professor at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at UNH, kicked of the week with a powerful presentation about climate science and the effects that a changing global climate will have on us, from rising seas to the inevitable dissapearance of Arctic sea ice. While the data was sobering, Professor Wake suggested there was a great deal of hope in teaching students about climate change. He encouraged the teachers to focus on the solutions to climate change rather than the problem, and promote social activism through student-driven projects.

To better understand the current and potential impacts of climate change, the teachers learned about "ecosystem services" (the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, essentially for free, such as clean air, flood regulation, water filtration, and even simply aesthetic beauty). The social and economic effects of diminished ecosystem services as a result of climate change were felt strongly as we immersed ourselves in a role-play simulation game borne from a collaboration between the Consensus Building Institute, several Reserves, and the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology (MIT). Teachers took on the roles of landowners, business leaders, town planners, elected officials, and other concerned citizens of a fictional coastal town (based on Wells) dealing with rising sea level. This fun activity was a great way to spark conversation about how educators might begin to talk to students about the very real conversations that will be happening in their own homes and communities in the near future regarding climate change.

Because no trip to the Reserve is complete without time outside, TOTE participants enjoyed time out in the field observing ecosystem services first-hand. They learned about habitat assessment work in the Branch Brook from Research Associate Jake Aman, took water quality measurements on the Reserve's salt marsh, and then relaxed and reflected on the week with a beautiful kayak up the Little River.

TOTErs kayak up the Little River

By the end of the week, TOTE teachers left with new ideas, tools, and partners. They will now endeavour to create meaningful, service-based learning experiences throughout the upcoming school year. We are looking forward to their updates, photos, and experiences as they share what they have learned with their students and attempt to "re-invent the world" of science education in a rapidly changing environment. Good luck, TOTE Climate Stewards, and thank you for a wonderful and inspiring week!

Many thanks to the NERRS Science Collaborative for their generous funding of this year's TOTE workshop!

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