Cara Thompson: Using Ocean Sustainability in Physical Oceanography at Santa Monica College
About this Course
An introductory course for non-majors.
Two 80-minute lecture sessions per week
Physical Oceanography Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 111kB Aug5 16)
This course provides the student with an understanding of the physical and geological aspects of oceanography. Lecture topics include the origin of the oceans, plate tectonics, sea floor topography, waves, beaches, estuaries, lagoons, and lakes. Completion of this course will give the student a greater knowledge of the fascinating and dynamic world of the oceans
% of course Topic
4% History of Oceanography
10% Origin of the Earth, Oceans, and Plate Tectonics
4% Continental Margin Topography
4% Deep Sea Topography
6% Continental Margin Sediments and Changes in Sea Level
6% Deep Sea Sediments
8% Oceanographic Equipment
16% Beaches and Coastal Structures
4% Chemistry of Seawater
4% Physical Properties of Seawater
4% Coastal Sand Dunes
6% Circulation and Water Masses
2% Sea Ice
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
I implemented the Ocean Sustainability Module in my introductory physical oceanography course at a two-year junior college (Santa Monica College). Many of our students struggle in science courses. It was great to see those students grasp concepts through the hands-on, student-lead learning provided in this module.
The student-lead learning drew students out of their shells and helped them draw their own conclusions about their personal responsibility in terms of ocean health and sustainability.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials
I implemented the module as intended as a capstone to the course.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
My course was 16 weeks long — the module was implemented at the end of the course (last three weeks). Students were introduced to the formation of the planet, plate tectonics, marine provinces, sediments, water and seawater, wind-driven currents, density-driven circulation, waves, tides, and coastal geology before starting the module.
The module was implemented back-to-back per instructions outlined on the SERC InTeGrate website and in the order in which they were designed to be implemented.
- I began Unit 1 with a video of NASA's Perpetual Ocean and asked students what they thought drove surface currents.
- Activities 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 were handed out separately, which took a lot time to hand out, so these activities were condensed into one handout.
- Students are asked to participate in a jigsaw activity. This activity has been changed to make it a true jigsaw.
- Initially the unit included an exercise in heat redistribution (in addition to moving the NASA Perpetual Ocean to a pre-homework assignment), but that was eliminated to save time.
- Unit 2 started with a discussion of Pre-homework 1 so that students got a sense for how their carbon footprint compared to others.
- An introductory lecture was given after this discussion.
- Activities 2.1 and 2.1 were handed out separately — they have since been condensed into one document to save time/paper.
- An introductory lecture was provided at the start of the unit.
- Students were asked to complete Activity 1 in groups. Since my course gave little biology background, I altered the exercise to make it a bit easier.
- Students then watched a video and answered Activity 2 questions. I sent the students a link so that they could re-watch and revisit their answers for this exercise at home.
- An introductory lecture was provided at the beginning of class.
- Students were asked to break up into groups and then were provided a handout and a physical copy of the instructions. We reviewed the instructions, but a physical copy allowed them to recheck what they were doing in case they became confused.
- Students were asked to come up with creative titles for their station (they enjoyed this — it helped them take ownership over their answers).
- Students were rotated through, and they discussed once they got back to their station.
- Homework was assigned at the end of class.
- An introductory lecture was provided at the start of class.
- Students were asked to break up in o groups, assigned a group number and provided the Unit 5 handout.
- Once students were done with their group questions, they visited other groups to copy their answers. This resulted in a lot of copying without thinking or discussion, which has been remedied in the new revisions.
- An introductory lecture was given at the start of class.
- Students were broken up in to groups and provided Activity 1.
- A few lecture slides were given after they were done and we discussed the effectiveness of iron fertilization strategies.
- This is an important unit for connection the themes in Units 1–5.
I provided a concept map as a group exercise during the final exam. I believe as an individual exercise it would have been too difficult. As a group exercise it initiated a lot of thoughtful conversation, and students did relatively well on it. That said, we changed the summative assessment to a more purposeful assignment (an educational brochure for the public) that I think will be more effective.
Our primary vision was to increase student-led learning and have them understand their role in ocean sustainability. Although many students at Santa Monica College already tend to be relatively sustainably-minded, this module was able to teach them the science behind these sustainability themes. Students did well — many commented on how they did not realize the carbon that they were emitting affects the ocean in multi-faceted ways. They stated that before the module, their impression of ocean sustainability was limited to pollution (e.g., plastics) and/or overfishing.
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