Chesapeake Summer, Colonial Times

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Getting Real

Reverse culture shock is real….especially when you never let yourself fully engage in it. If you recall, shortly after I returned home from the Galapagos, I moved to Williamsburg, VA for my internship. I began working 8 hour days, 5 days a week, then went to the gym all evening, made food, slept and repeat. I never gave myself much time to think about what I learned from my experiences and how I was impacted.

After my internship, I had a short period of down time for travel and relaxation before I was back on Juniata’s campus for tour guide training and cheerleading. It was difficult coming back to living on campus for the first time in a year while learning about everything that has changed while I was away. Luckily, I have great roommates to help me with this transition but it is still hard for me. Our Center for International Education has hosted events for study abroad returners to give us a place to talk and discuss our transition process. It has been really great to have that resource.

Roommates Deanna (left) and Mara (middle) in our new home Pink Palace

That being said, I finally feel like I have somewhat of a routine on campus again and can start finding time to write about my most recent experience. It is long overdue, but better late than never.

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The Internship

Just to recap from my last post, this summer I participated in my NOAA Hollings Scholarship internship at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR) at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Since VIMS is the graduate school of marine science for William and Mary, I learned more about graduate school options for my future.

My Project: Translating Chesapeake Bay Research and Stewardship Projects into Useful, Hands-on Education Products

This is a paraphrase of my previous post but I felt it was important to explain again. I worked with both the stewardship coordinator, Scott Lerberg, and the education coordinator, Sarah Nuss, to enhance education on Chesapeake Bay environmental issues and current restoration projects. I only had 9-weeks to plan, conduct, and analyze my project. The 10th week was a presentation at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.

My project was 2-fold: first, I created a lesson plan based on the current National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s thin-layer placement (TLP) project and then I made an interactive digital version using Esri Story Map.

The basic definition of TLP is the purposeful placement of sediment or dredged materials to a specified thickness to provide higher elevation for marshes to withstand sea level rise and erosion. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is comprised of 29 locations and 8 of these are home sites for the two-year TLP restoration experiment. CBNERR-VA is one of these sites and I was able to participate in monitoring of the experiment first hand.

Esri’s ArcGIS Story Map is an evolving tool that allows end users to explore a topic through images, videos, interactive maps, data, figures, and text. This platform is accessible for educators, researchers, industry professionals, and even students. I highly recommend this for teachers or for public outreach. I already knew how to use GIS (mapping software called Geographic Information Systems), but this allowed me to use it in a different way to reach the public.

The second step of my project included piloting the tools with students and receiving evaluations from teachers on both the traditional and digital platforms. This included interviews with both groups to gain their perspectives on digital learning vs. traditional learning of science. I was able to access both teachers and students over the summer through two of the CBNERR events: Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop and VIMS/CBNERR summer camp.

The TOTE workshop was held at VIMS Eastern Shore Laboratory in Wachapreague, VA. This week long workshop is designed to train teachers on research and field methods in their local estuary. This allows NERRs to create connections with teachers and show them what tools are available to enhance their classroom instruction. Teachers had the opportunity to go into the field and practice what they can teach. I used this week to interview them for my project and have them sign up to review my tools.

Some images below are thanks to CBNERR-VA Staff, VIMS Staff, and fellow teachers.

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The VIMS/CBNERR summer camp was also a one week experience for rising 9th graders and above to learn about the Chesapeake Bay, environmental stewardship, future careers, and to train to be a junior camp counselor for future camps. I used this week with our students to interview them about their technology use in class, I practiced teaching my lesson, and also had them explore the digital tool. Some images below are thanks to CBNERR-VA Staff.

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My everyday work was different each week. In the beginning, I was working more with the stewardship team doing field work in the reserve sites. I got to visit each of the four reserve sites and learn about all the projects ongoing at CBNERR-VA. Here’s some photos from my field work adventures!

I then transitioned into thinking more about my project and writing my lesson plan. Once my lesson plan was closer to completion, I was able to begin my Story Map. From there, it was a lot of computer work but I got to break it up by going to TOTE and helping with the VIMS summer camp.

I also helped with two Discovery Labs, which are themed public outreach nights for all ages to come and learn about science at VIMS.

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Through these experiences, I learned a lot about the lack of resources and difficulties teachers are facing in our developing technological society. I also was able to understand how students respond to technology and what learning styles they prefer. Overall, I was able to create the first story map for CBNERR-VA and understand how to help science teachers effectively teach science while using technology. This will help NOAA and the NERRs system better equip teachers to share estuarine science.

Personally, I learned how to conduct research in education, how to effectively teach science, how to create and design a lesson plan, how to create a story map, and the importance of estuarine stewardship. I gained a new understanding in my role as a scientist with a passion for outreach. Interacting with the students during my lesson and watching them interact with the digital tool was one of the highlights of my summer. It was great to see my hard work have a positive impact on students.

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Adulting 101

This summer, I was forced to be more independent than I ever have been before and be an…..*gasp* ADULT! It was great practice for my next steps after graduation (which as of right now is getting a job…more about that later). Although I spent my summer working a 40-hour week and going to the gym everyday, I found some time to have fun and enjoy colonial Williamsburg.

For the summer, I lived in a house with William and Mary students in Williamsburg, just 20 minutes away from VIMS, which is down the York River in Gloucester. I lived a 5 minute walk from Colonial Williamsburg and had easy access to a direct drive to VIMS on the Colonial Parkway. I loved the people I lived with and the friends I made this summer. I lived in a beautiful place and there was always something to do. They also showed me the local bar scene.

One of my favorite things to do included going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings. I got local vegetables, fruits, soaps, and kombucha! Check out my favorites from the Willliamsburg Farmer’s Market: Ninja Kombucha, Virginia First Tea Shop, Glow Holistic, and Tasha’s Own (lovely goat milk soap).

In addition, I was able to enjoy visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown with my family when they visited and with friends.

On my own, I ran in many different parks and sat on many riverside beaches.

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Thank you CBNERR-VA for having me this summer. Also, thank you for the lovely farewell dinners!

There are so many amazing things to do in this area and I truly loved it. Thank you to my College of William and Mary friends for taking me in for the summer.

Follow my Facebook Page that I am finally uploading photos and videos to!

4 thoughts on “Chesapeake Summer, Colonial Times

  1. Sarah November 11, 2019 / 3:59 pm

    It was awesome having you here last summer and I can’t wait to catch up next week in Charleston!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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