Ocean FEST intergenerational science program completes its first year

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tara L Hicks Johnson, (808) 956-3151
Outreach Spec, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Carlie Wiener, (808) 628-8666
NWHI Research & Outreach Specialist, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Posted: May 17, 2010

Students engaged with hands-on activities that communicate ocean science concepts.
Students engaged with hands-on activities that communicate ocean science concepts.

Since September 2009, over 1,100 students, parents, teachers and volunteers in 14 public schools state-wide have participated in the new and highly successful Ocean FEST (Families Exploring Science Together) family science night program, developed by UH Mānoa. After extensive development and field-testing, the intergenerational hands-on marine science program has completed its pilot year.

Ocean FEST engages elementary school students and their parents and teachers in family science nights, which focus on marine science and conservation for island communities. Ocean FEST is a standards-based program that has been disseminated both on a local and national level, interesting underrepresented students in marine sciences. Ocean FEST exposes families to cutting-edge ocean science research being conducted by UH Mānoa's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

The Ocean FEST program uses the marine environment as a “hook” to explore important science concepts and conservation topics. Developed for the people of Hawai‘i, program themes include climate change and sea level rise, coral reef ecosystems, marine microbes, and marine science careers.  Activities are designed so students can see how globally important issues (e.g., climate change and ocean acidification) have local effects (e.g., sea level rise, coastal erosion, coral bleaching). Using hands-on examples, demonstrations and authentic research data, students and their families come to understand how concepts like climate change and the ocean are inextricably linked.

This three-year state-wide program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the State of Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative will offer twenty events annually. Most events are held at public and charter schools, and community event programs. Modeled after Art and Rene Kimura’s highly successful space-themed family science nights, Ocean FEST engages students in grades 3-6 and their parents in hands-on science activities and demonstrations that explore the wonders of the ocean world. The program is entirely free to participating schools and offers a professional development component for teachers so that the activities can be brought into the classrooms. External evaluation of the content knowledge provided by the program has shown significant gains and content continues to improve by implementing changes that reflect learning outcomes presented through teacher, parent and student feedback. Given the success of the program, plans to expand the curriculum to a middle school level are underway.

Dr. Barbara Bruno, education coordinator for the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) and Carlie Wiener, Northwest Hawaiian Islands Research and Outreach Program Specialist at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, both of UH Mānoa, are the program founders and lead instructors. Wiener stated, “We are very excited about this program; it gives both parents and students an opportunity to learn together about the importance of our oceans and the exciting career opportunities in marine sciences.” Bruno adds, “We’re especially interested in engaging students from groups that have been underrepresented. A local, diverse geoscience workforce in Hawai‘i’s next generation will be critical to tackling the urgent local problems posed by our rapidly changing environment.”

Ocean FEST will continue in the 2010-11 school year with programs beginning in August. For more information on the program, please visit http://oceanfest.soest.hawaii.edu/index.htm.


For more information, visit: http://oceanfest.soest.hawaii.edu/index.htm.