Bob Chen ~ Urban Oceanographer

COSEE New England

The proposal to establish COSEE New England was funded in 2002, with Dr. Bob Chen as one of three co-PIs, along with Dr. Billy Spitzer from New England Aquarium and Dr. Debbie Smith from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Before COSEE, Bob had visited classrooms a few times, but had done nothing specifically with K-12 education. Upon reading the COSEE RFP from NSF, he became interested in exploring how to construct an excellent way of engaging scientists in K-12 outreach, bridging the gap between the science world and the education world.

The first year of COSEE New England focused on developing core concepts - What is ocean literacy? What is excellence? How do we evaluate and study our programs to determine if they are excellent and effective? Programs that were begun were done so on a small scale in order to establish the COSEE New England reputation before branching out.

Sensor swan
The COSEE New England program that Bob helped design and run is OSEI, the Ocean Sciences Education Institute, which ran for four years. One goal of OSEI was to create an atmosphere in which scientists and educators could become familiar and develop respect for each other's cultures. By the second year of OSEI, two of the curriculum units that had been developed collaboratively by researchers and educators were published in Science Scope, the National Science Teachers Association journal for middle school science teachers. OSEI also resulted in resources for teachers - lesson plans, posters, instructions for making a plankton net, links to interactive websites - that were available through the COSEE New England website.

By the fourth year of OSEI, teachers worked very efficiently on lesson plans that were based on new research of the scientist, and scientists were working in partnership with the teachers to translate their expertise to a larger audience. OSEI became a successful model for bridging the gap between cultures. "A lot of our teachers are still in touch with us," says Bob. "It's a long term partnership, which is the sign of a good program."

Learning how to develop and present good professional development, create successful partnerships between scientists and educators across school districts, and work with evaluators and facilitators have all became hallmarks of Bob's involvement with COSEE New England. And his work with COSEE New England had a direct result on his teaching, his research, and his ability to attract funding.