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Guest Blog by Kate Wade: Connecting to the Community

Posted By Lisa D. Tossey, Saturday, April 11, 2015
Informal education -seining

There used to only be two ways to reach classroom students as an informal educator: site visits and field trips. These methods have changed. Technology provides us with the ability to enhance these experiences with lessons, discussions, and follow-ups all conducted online. This isn’t a new thing, but it is quickly becoming a more common approach to informal education experiences.

In a time when classroom budgets and lessons are severely restricted, informal educators now have a tool that allows them to squeeze in extra time with students and provide additional enrichment experiences. Not only are educators able to reach the target audience in a more efficient way, but they are also able to connect with one another like never before.

The National Marine Education Association supports and fosters the connection between the classroom and the informal educator and is dedicated to reaching a larger audience. A common component of the 2014 NMEA conference was the importance of communication and the connections and experiences made possible by technology. There is a trend among government organizations, private institutions and local non-profit groups towards the use of social media and video conferencing as a means of reaching target audiences.

Various social media platforms provide the opportunity for organizations to contact and notify an audience outside of their local area. Not only is it an essential tool for educators, the access and connectivity that social media creates is a valuable marketing strategy for many of these institutions. Educators are often a naturally collaborative and communicative community; sharing and creating meaningful connections is important professionally and personally. The connections made through online technology between educators, organizations, and schools are changing the landscape of outreach education.


Organizations across the country offer quality educational experiences throughout the year; yet many schools fail to participate in programming. Online educational opportunities allow informal educators to share lessons, experiments, or experiences with students who may not be able to attend programming due to location or budget constraints. Many informal educational groups are specifically designing programming for presenting online; communicating scientific ideas and developing meaningful cognitive experiences using videos, experiments, and presentations conducted in real-time.

This approach increases the likelihood that students located in communities that have insufficient funding will have the opportunity to participate in programming without the added cost of travel and valuable time away from the classroom. School districts that have limited access to marine science programs due to location are no longer inhibited by distance; students are able to participate in marine science in real-time, virtual classrooms. Online educational programming provides students with access to the marine science community in a new format.

By changing our approach, online technology has given informal educators a means to share our story and our experiences with our target audience. To reach a wide range of audiences we must share the possibilities of online learning experiences and encourage the use social media to increase awareness and improve communication between science organizations and school districts. Information regarding grant funded opportunities, outreach programming, and classroom curriculum will increase the probability of a schools’ participation. The ultimate goal is to connect to classrooms across the country and provide students with marine science experiences and knowledge. To truly expand our audience, we must use online tools of communication to reach those who do not have access to marine science education.

Author Kate Wade was a 2014 Expanding Audiences scholarship recipient. Learn more about the scholarship here > 


Tags:  conference  guest blog  scholarship 

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Guest Blog by Bethany Ricks: Coming Home to NMEA

Posted By Lisa D. Tossey, Saturday, March 7, 2015

Northwoods“Getting to know home is the most human and necessary of occupations.” But what is home? Is home the “ground at our own feet," as Wendell Berry says? Or is home the entire planet? Is home somewhere in between?

I was thankful to attend the NMEA conference in 2014 as an Expanding Audiences scholarship recipient. I am a graduate student in environmental education, working in the northwoods of Wisconsin. My time in the northwoods has been disorienting, a vast change from my years as a marine educator in Minnesota, South Carolina, and Oregon. Returning to the world of marine education for NMEA 2014 felt like a homecoming, and made me wonder what my parallel worlds of marine education and environmental education can learn from one another.

One of the striking themes of NMEA was how globally-focused we are as marine educators. Coming from my graduate program in environmental education, which focuses narrowly on local ecosystems, returning to the global focus of marine education was a relief. However, both global and local approaches have their flaws. How can the marine education and environmental education communities learn from one anothers’ approaches?

In my experience, marine education is necessarily global. When I was teaching about gray whales on the Oregon coast, it was impossible to only discuss gray whales’ time in Oregon; we also needed to discuss their lives in Alaska and in Baja California. Climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and bycatch: these are all global issues. In fact, the Ocean Literacy Principles reflect a global vision of marine education:Canoe paddle

  1. The Earth has one big ocean with many features.
  2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.
  3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.
  4. The ocean made Earth habitable.
  5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
  6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.
  7. The ocean is largely unexplored.


Our global vision of marine education is useful, but it can be exhausting if not tied to local experiences. The Earth is huge, and any one person is small; how can any of us really make a difference? How can I care, when the problems feel abstract? Perhaps one way to combat this feeling is to develop caring for a nearby, familiar place.

LichenWhen I began my graduate program in environmental education, I experienced some culture shock as I learned about environmental education methods that were incredibly locally-focused. I found myself crawling on my knees along a meter of string, noticing everything along it, from lichen to leaf litter to insects. I found myself identifying local trees, local soils, and local birds, without much thought to the bigger picture. I was exploring my own backyard, but I had no idea how that backyard fit into the world.

The methods have helped me to know this one place, but not how this place fits into the world. To “watch a spider construct a web; observe a caterpillar systematically ravaging the edge of a leaf; close your eyes, cup your hands behind your ears, and listen to aspen leaves rustle or a stream muse about its pools and eddies” may help one to fall in love with one’s little corner of the world, but not how to protect it. For that, the global view of marine education helps: this little corner of the world matters to me, and it is affected by forces both near and far. This is summed up nicely by John Muir Laws:

Love of nature is the spring from which stewardship flows. In contrast, disconnection from nature leads to apathy in the face of all environmental problems. A useful way to define love is sustained, compassionate attention.

DragonflyLike all the best learning experiences, NMEA left me asking questions. How can we all bring a little more global perspective to our locally-focused programs, and a little more local perspective to our globally-focused programs? How can we help people care through local focus, while giving them the tools to act on issues, both globally and locally? What does home mean to me? To my students? I am still wrestling with these questions, months later, and I am thankful for the experience that spurred them.

All photos courtesy of author Bethany Ricks, a 2014 Expanding Audiences scholarship recipient. Learn more about the scholarship here > 

Tags:  conference  scholarship 

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It's time to consider awards and scholarships for NMEA 2015

Posted By Lisa D. Tossey, Monday, January 26, 2015

NMEA Annual awardsWe may be in the midst of winter at the moment, but it's time to think ahead to the warm days of summer and our national conference, which will be held June 29 through July 2 in historic Newport, RI! We have a variety of scholarships and awards available to provide support for and recognize the achievements of our members.  

Scholarships provide funding for recipients to attend the conference. Nominations and applications are due on March 15. Learn more about the three types of scholarships that are offered here > 

Our award recipients receive a one-year NMEA membership and engraved awards at the conference. April 1 is the deadline for all awards submissions, except for the new Johnette D. Bosarge Memorial Award, which is due February 20 . The recipient of this award will receive a sea star sculpture with their name, which will also be presented during the awards ceremony at our annual conference. FInd out more about our awards and nomination process here > 


Tags:  award  conference  scholarship 

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Announcing the Johnette D. Bosarge Memorial Award

Posted By Lisa D. Tossey, Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bosarge headshotWe're proud to announce a new award in loving memory of Johnette D. Bosarge, who served as our administrative assistant from 1999-2013.

This is an annual, monetary award in the amount of $500 to be used as the recipient deems appropriate for attending the annual NMEA Conference and/or in the recipient’s formal or informal facility for educational purposes.

A sea star sculpture containing the recipient’s name will also be presented during the Awards Ceremony at the annual NMEA Conference. This award is not based on fiscal need.

Access the full description and application form here >

Deadline: Feb. 20, 2014

Tags:  award  conference  scholarship 

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NMEA 2018 Annual Conference