Marine tour operators and educators in Kona participated in a unique communications course offered by the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence–Island Earth (COSEE–IE). Funded by the National Science Foundation and led by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the center has been teaching Communicating Ocean Sciences to marine science graduate and undergraduate students over the past three years.
Kona represented a new direction for the program, adapting the course for people who are in the business of providing field-based ocean experiences such as scuba diving and snorkeling excursions, manta ray interactions, as well as students involved in marine conservation outreach.
The course included elements of pedagogical models, practical exercises for teaching using hands-on approaches and active inquiry, all while teaching basic topics in marine science such as ocean density and circulation, sea level rise from climate change, coral reef biology, algal ecology, marine mammals, manta rays, sea turtles and fishes.
A critical component of the course structure was the integration of discussion, readings and practices related to Hawaiian culture and ways of knowing. A field trip to Kaloko-Honokōhau National Park enhanced the participants’ understanding of the importance of this area to Hawaiian history and culture, and highlighted the many teaching opportunities available along the trail.
Effective partnerships were key to the program’s success. Several guest speakers working on local marine issues volunteered their time and expertise on topics as diverse as coral reef conservation in Puako to the Day-Use Mooring Buoy Project in Hawaiʻi. Experts on local sea turtle populations, algal communities, as well as manta ray research also presented.
Hawaiʻi Community College Office of Continuing Education and Training offered networking opportunities for course organizers and professional development certificates for students who completed the course. Local businesses paid for their employees to participate with assistance from the State of Hawaiʻi Workforce Development Division, which provided tuition assistance through the Employment Training Funds program.
Instructors Judith Lemus, COSEE–IE principle investigator, and Carlie Wiener, COSEE-IE program manager, were assisted by Wendy Laros, director of education at Jack’s Diving Locker, in locally organizing and coordinating the course in Kona. Hilo-based Hawaiian charter school teacher, traditional practitioner and COSEE–IE Hawaiian knowledge advisor Terry Reveira was also instrumental, giving two highly engaging sessions and leading the field trip to Kaloko-Honokōhau in cooperation with park ranger Jon Jokiel.
Initially capped at 24 participants, the course was so popular that the enrollment limit was raised to 28, and there was still a waiting list. Due to the high cost of flying Oʻahu instructors out to the Big Island, the partners are discussing how the course can continue to be offered in the future.
Laros, an experienced educator who is completing a master’s degree in educational technology from UH Mānoa, sees the value in a blended course with both online and in-person components that includes instructors from Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, or possibly other Hawaiian islands. “I had a hunch that the Kona community was interested in marine education and the enrollment in this course was proof,” said Laros. “There’s so much going on here in the marine tourism industry, with ocean research, or in marine conservation. Kona is a place that is ripe for outreach and education.”
COSEE–IE is also looking to see if there is a need or interest in the course on Oʻahu or other islands. “We started with Hawaiʻi Island because there seemed to be such a huge community interest for the course in the Kona area, but we’d certainly like to make it available to a broader group of tour operators and educators if at all possible,” said Lemus.
—A Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence–Island Earth story