Group plans update for oil spill educational curriculum

Council Outreach Coordinator

A group interested in creating new educational materials about oil spills met in the council’s Anchorage office this past March.

Three of the organizations represented, the Prince William Sound Science Center, the Alaska SeaLife Center, and the council were already working on their own projects to create materials on oil spills. The science center’s plan was to compile a database of oil spill educational material focusing on all of Alaska, including the Arctic. The Alaska SeaLife Center, using funding from a grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, was planning to create materials on spills that occurred in the United States to help train staff to interact with the public on difficult, controversial or complicated topics. The council was just beginning the process of updating our Alaska Oil Spill Curriculum, which focused on the Exxon Valdez oil spill region. A collaborative effort by the Prince William Sound Science Center, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute and the council created that curriculum and last updated it in 2007.

The three organizations decided to once again pool resources into one project and invited representatives from Kodiak College, the Sitka Sound Science Center, and NOAA’s Auke Bay Lab to join the discussion.

Also joining the meeting was Katie Gavenus, project director for Children of the Spills, one of the council’s youth involvement projects. Katie interviewed people in the Exxon Valdez oil spill region who experienced an oil spill as a youth. You can find some of the project’s videos and interviews at: Children of the Spills

The group talked about goals for the new collaborative curriculum. In order to appeal to a broad audience, large spills around the U.S. will be included. Lesson plans will cover a variety of subjects such as science, writing and history so teachers don’t have to find time in their schedules for a separate curriculum.

The curriculum is expected to focus on the beauty, intricacy and science of ecosystems, how everything is inter-related, and why we should care about and protect it. The group is also working to include some information from the perspective of the oil industry such as what oil is, how it is produced, products we use that are made from oil and current oil spill prevention and response capabilities.

The curriculum will also include energy conservation and renewable energy topics. Older students will study more technical information and learn about oil spills as technological disasters. They will learn how people respond differently to natural disasters than to technological (or man-made) disasters and how important it is to be aware of this and to teach proper response. Information for this part of the curriculum will be taken from the council’s Coping with Technological Disasters Guidebook. For more information on this guidebook, visit our Coping with Technological Disasters page.

The old curriculum is still available on our website, but will be updated within the next few months. If you have questions or comments, please email me. Have a wonderful summer!

Community Corner – Outreach activities help us connect with others in our region

Council Outreach Coordinator

On September 29, we participated in the Chugach Regional Education Forum. The goal of the event was to gather educators from the Chugach region to discuss projects and get a better understanding of what educational resources are available in the region.

Participants included teachers and organizations that provide educational services for students. Presentations covered topics such as diversity in the regions’ schools, how traditional knowledge is used in education, and education outreach. Participants learned about the Prince William Sound Science Center, Alaska Sealife Center, the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission, Alaska Geographic, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and the council. It was a very worthwhile forum and helped firm up connections and relationships among the region.

This year for the first time we had a booth at November’s Alaska Federation of Natives conference, held this year in Anchorage. At this statewide meeting of Native Alaskans and others we were able to reach out to many attendees from the council’s communities and beyond. Some visitors included former Alyeska-council liaison Gary Bader, former council board members Scott Sterling and Pete Kompkoff and many others. Board member Patience Andersen Faulkner and staffer Serena Lopez assisted with the council’s booth.

I attended the Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management in Kodiak, October 30-November 1. This year marine invasive species were on the agenda. Topics included aquatic invasive species in Kodiak, early detection of zebra and quagga mussels in Alaska, promoting environmental stewardship in rural Alaska, potential impacts to Alaska’s fisheries from Didemnum Vexillum (a tunicate or sea squirt), and invasive species management programs in Alaska.

Staffer Anna Carey took the booth to the Society for Environmental Technology and Chemistry conference in Long Beach, California in November. Carey, board member John French, and the Scientific Advisory Committee’s Debu Misra were able to attend several scientific presentations related to oil spill technology.

In early November, Mark Swanson visited Valdez Elementary School and spoke with several fifth grade science classes. The presentation was part of the Information and Education Committee’s youth involvement project. Swanson talked to the students about the council and the concerns of various users of Prince William Sound. The students participated in facilitated group discussions about those concerns and looked at measures to balance everyone’s common interests.

Also in November, board members John Velsko and Blake Johnson assisted me at the booth at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. This conference attracts fishermen and others who live and/or work in the Alaska fishing industry. It is always very well attended.

All of us here wish you a very happy 2013, and a huge thank you to our wonderful volunteers for their hard work in protecting our waters.

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