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

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USGS scientists present newly developed education outreach materials at the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers (SSEATs) held at the USGS National Headquarters in Reston, Virginia.

This article is part of the August 2018 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter

On July 31, 2018, three scientists from the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts presented newly developed education outreach materials at the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers (SSEATs) held at the USGS National 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. 

A woman stands on a stage near a large screen with a projected image on it, in front of a group of people who are listening.

Meagan Gonneea discusses the processes that contribute to and erode coastal wetland systems.

(Credit: Matt Arsenault, USGS. Public domain.)

A man stands on a stage near a large screen with a projected image on it, in front of a group of people who are listening.

USGS scientist Neil Ganju explains how lidar data is used to map marsh and estuary systems.

(Credit: Matt Arsenault, USGS. Public domain.)

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.

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.

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Date published: August 31, 2018

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Date published: August 14, 2018

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