Bringing the Ocean Inland
West coast sunset
From 700-foot sand dunes created by ancient oceans and wind to the headwaters that drain to the Gulfs of Mexico and California, Colorado is intimately tied to the ocean. It is easy to forget that fact when confronted by the Rocky Mountains to the west and the start of the Great Plains to the east. However, Colorado is in a unique intellectual and geographical position (the state straddles the Continental Divide) to bridge the sometimes enormous-seeming chasm between coastal and inland communities.

The partnership between the University of Colorado-Boulder and COSEE-West in California will address this issue of the "perishable nature of ocean literacy" (a quote from Admiral Byus' statement that the further removed geographically from the ocean, the less interest there is in the ocean) by bridging the Great Divide. The COSEE-West Colorado Collaborative aims to educate inland communities on the vital role that they play in the global ocean as well as to reiterate the responsibilities that coastal communities everywhere hold as stewards of the ocean.

To meet these challenges, our Collaborative will engage Colorado-area ocean scientists in outreach education by enhancing their teaching and communication skills and by providing an education outreach model to help scientists integrate their research into education.

In addition, the COSEE-West Colorado Collaborative will excite and engage inland teachers and students in ocean sciences research by providing teacher professional development opportunities that are rich in ocean sciences content and pedagogical content, as well as by making ocean sciences relevant to their daily lives. In this way we can create a science literate public and grow the ranks of ocean science researchers.

These outreach education efforts will specifically seek to increase the ocean science opportunities of teachers and students of under-represented populations.

The COSEE-West Colorado Collaborative will utilize the newly constructed ATLAS Building equipped with innovative teaching and learning technology to share their scientists' lectures with rural parts of Colorado and with COSEE-West educators, either through live video-conferencing or archiving them for download at the Collaborative's website.

The COSEE-West Colorado Collaborative will co-host a teacher exchange program in which five teachers will be selected by each institution through a competitive application process. Those five teachers will be sent to the partner institution for a one-week summer teacher institute.

Some topics for the teacher summer institutes will be air-sea interactions, cloud formation, climate, ocean observing systems, Arctic sea ice, the Greenland Ice Sheet, and sea level changes. Researchers from CIRES (the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences), NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), the National Sea Ice Data center, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, the University of Colorado at Boulder and other institutions will be available for teachers to interact with and to draw on for knowledge and opportunities.

This cross-fertilization of insights and ideas from teachers of diverse backgrounds and knowledge levels will broaden the knowledge and experience base of all involved. It will give them a better understanding of the connectivity of earth's ecosystems and how each fits into the other.

In an age in which advances in technology allow us to observe and interact at ever-more-removed distances, it is important to remind ourselves of the very real connection we still share with each other and with the planet we live on. It is even more important to keep those connections alive for the students who will come after us. Of the impressive array of networks and programs out there, collaborations such as the one between the University of Colorado-Boulder and COSEE-West will only serve to strengthen the scientific and educational offerings available to those willing to keep those connections from passing into the technological void.

Contributed by Jane Lee