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Interview Background

Using Ocean Sciences and SECOORA Resources in the Learning Environment.

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Regardless of the level of the educational environment, whether middle-school, high-school or collegiate, science education professionals are forever in the quest of locating additional resources to enhance their learning environments. One of the almost ignored resource areas is the use of marine science products and research in the mainstream curriculum. It is the goal of this project to create a template that helps to provide a path for educators to use in developing interesting and interactive learning products.

SECOORA, the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, is a collaborative university partnership that collects, manages and disseminates integrated regional ocean observations and information products for the coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida (1). By its design and nature, SECOORA offers a wealth of informational resources for the educator. It is our intent in this project to focus on SECOORA resources and products, but this is not to say that this is the only area that should be used in developing quality educational resources.

The question needs to be asked, “Why a template?”. We believe that by providing this product, we can greatly assist the educator in developing quality educational products for their classroom. Educators are restricted in time and resources. Instead of needing to create their own design from scratch, they can use ours as a basis, as an outline of what to do, how to do it and where to get data and information. We also believe that by showing how to integrate ocean sciences into the classroom we can bring more attention to this vital area.


Ocean Sciences are the “Red-headed Step-Child”

Everyone is aware of the marine environment and its importance to life itself. How can we then say that it is an area that commands lower levels of respect and usage than other areas? In the United States, the adjacent ocean realm is fifty percent larger than the land mass of the U.S.. The ocean related economy is 2.5 times larger than that of the land-based economy. Coastal states comprise 3/4ths of the economic structure of the United States. Ocean policies, while given some credence, do not hold the esteem of other economic areas, such as agriculture (2).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is a cabinet level position in the executive branch of the federal government. The position most reflective of the ocean environment is the National Ocean Service, which is a subset under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In Washington, the higher the position level, the more power is wielded. The requested 2004 budget for N.O.S. was $411 million. (3) To put this number in perspective, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requested $687 million for salaries and expenses for the employees of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which was actually a reduction of $148 million from the 2003 budget. (4)

In the United States, there are over 28 million ocean related jobs (5). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are slightly more than 10 million jobs related to farming, food and food preparation (6). We budget 50% more for an area of the economy that provides a little more than one-third of the jobs related to the ocean environment. The ocean economy is the largest employment area in the United States.

In Florida, there are over 700,000 ocean related jobs. The direct impact of ocean related activities is staggering in the state. In Broward County alone, the economic impact of this area equates to $2.1 billion in annual revenues and over 36,000 jobs (7). In the four southeastern Florida counties, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe, the ocean environment generates over $4.4 billion in revenues and provides employment to over 61,000 people.

Therefore, if the government places marine resources at a substantially lower level of access, funding and policy formation, regardless of its actual importance, then how can we expect the average educator or even person on the street to accept its importance? One way to change this perception is through the deeper integration of marine sciences into our educational environments.


According to the United States Commission on Ocean Policy, we must perform the following steps:


  1. An ocean policy must be developed that is sustainable.
  2. We must recognize the value of our ocean resources and develop a principle of stewardship.
  3. Our ocean policies must be linked to land and atmospheric relationships.
  4. We must manage on the principle that our policies are geared to an interconnected ecosystem and not a political system.
  5. Ocean policy must reflect multiple use management, tying conservation to economic uses.
  6. Downward trends in biodiversity must be reversed. (8)


To implement these recommendations requires a new understanding of the interconnectivity between our ocean realms and our social structure. We must recognize that a loss in the marine environment can have a direct and dire effect on our economic and social stability. Education is one method of bringing problems and solutions to light. Education cannot be in a high-handed, pure academic atmosphere, but instead must be geared to a level that brings home the direct impact of inaction or inappropriate action. If society understands that ignoring the problem will have an adverse affect on their fiscal lifestyle, then society will push for advancements in protecting our marine environments.


The Educator and the Classroom

If we realize that education may be a primary feature in developing a more complete understanding of the interrelationships between the marine environment and ourselves, then how do we increase this educational awareness. This becomes a “Catch-22”. A science educator, regardless of the level, is required to develop and deliver a science curriculum. The educator has limited time and resources. The educator's focus is then normally trained on more apparent and accessible areas, which would require less action by the educator in the development of a lesson or activity. The learner has less exposure to an area such as the marine environment and therefore has a lower understanding of it's impact. This then equates to a lower public sentiment and thus fewer resources are focused on the marine environment at policy making levels. Once again, making the marine environment a lower level concern to all.

With our template, we intend to provide the educator with a wealth of data, information and structure that will more easily enable the development of integrated educational materials. This project provides more than just a “cookie cutter” approach to a lesson, it gives a log of how we went about this, what we did and samples to use.


The Project

We began this by making many of the assumptions we have stated in the previous pages.


  1. Marine science is not a priority learning tool in many educational environments.
  2. Public awareness of the importance of the marine environment is not as high as it should be.
  3. Educators need easily accessible and informative products to use in their classrooms.
  4. SECOORA provides numerous resources that can create hands-on activities.


The template design must be structured to aid in addressing these and other issues. Through the development of the project we decided to not only create simply an outline or template that could be used, but to also provide a finished, example product.

We determined that first we would make our targeted audience to be the secondary and post-secondary educator. At the same time, we felt it necessary to also develop this in such a way that lower level educators could also use it, with some adjustments.

The first question that we asked ourselves was “Is this really necessary?”. To answer that, we approached several science educators around the United States, to ask their opinions. While they almost universally stated that they use aspects of marine science in their lessons, upon more in-depth discussions they admitted that the availability of resources seemed limited as compared to other, more standardized learning areas. They also felt that there was no real need to use marine resources to a greater level, until we brought up an idea for them to consider.

The marine environment encompasses almost all areas of science. Chemistry, biology, physics, the list is almost endless. Therefore, a properly structured educational format could allow the educator to have an overall theme that incorporates all areas of study. In almost every case, when this was brought up to the educator, their response was that they had not thought about it in this manner.

A high-school biology teacher on Long Island, already uses many features of the marine environment in his lessons. He admits that this is due primarily to his physical location. His students live near the ocean, they see it almost daily, it has been a part of the economic and social structure for centuries. In his case, it is natural to use the marine environment as a study area.

What about the teacher in Kansas? A chemistry teacher in Salinas, does use some ocean related content, but not much, as she has little physical access to it. Her students may not be able to visualize how something works, if they have little or no physical exposure to it.

On the surface, this makes sense. Why would the student or teacher living 1,000 miles from the nearest beach care to use something so abstract in a long-term educational product. The focus would seem to be more properly targeted to growing corn or raising livestock. Until they realize that an event in the ocean directly affects them. A tropical storm comes ashore in Galveston, Texas, but the long-term effects dramatically impact the people of Manhattan, Kansas. Torrential rains, tornadoes, the economic and social impacts can be staggering.

This is where SECOORA comes in to the picture. SECOORA products, such as the real-time data acquisition and monitoring systems can give the educator and learner the ability to easily integrate advanced data products into a course or lesson structure. Instead of hearing about buoys and monitoring systems, the classroom becomes actively involved in their use. If the student learns about the researcher or scientist, they have a more personal feeling towards the subject. It is no longer simply a person who wrote a paper, but instead is a “real” person, that may have a background similar to the student's own.

We decided to go about this “personalization” procedure in a multi-step process.


  1. We would develop an initial set of interviews of marine scientists and educators. To do the interviews, we would use a college student and high-school student.
  2. From these initial interviews the college student would then develop case studies relating to each interview.
  3. We would then use a separate interview, using a SECOORA researcher, to learn more about that person and what they do.


The Initial Interviews

At the time of the initial interviews, Lucaya Luckey-Bethany was an 18 year-old sophomore at SUNY-Oswego. She was dual majoring in Broadcasting and Theater. She grew up in Nevada and Colorado. Logan Luckey-Bethany was a 16 year-old, high-school junior from Gardnerville, Nevada. His interests were graphic arts and music. He also grew up in Nevada and Colorado.

The interviews were performed over a 3 week period in the summer of 2005, at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Lucaya began by contacting various professors at the College of Marine Science. She obtained their names, contact information and areas of expertise from the College website. After she had compiled a group of five Professors who agreed to the interviews, she then began to research their backgrounds, with her primary source being their provided biographical information on the college website.

With this information, she was then able to develop a primary script, which allowed her to ask them similar questions, but at the same time allowing them to move into other areas that they may have an interest.

Script development was performed jointly by both Lucaya and Logan. They researched the persons background, their area of expertise and basic information on these areas. This gave them a foundation of understanding to enable them to be able to more fully delve into the subjects being discussed. She scheduled no more than two interviews per day; this would allow enough time for each interviewee to be able to express themselves as they wished and to not have scheduling conflicts.

Logan, the camera operator, Logan, had basic instruction on camera use, shots, angles and panning techniques. He had little previous experience in using video recorders, but he had some experience in still camera operations.

Lucaya did have a strong background in creative writing, but no hands-on experience in conducting interviews. Due to her majors and interest in various aspects of performing, she was not intimidated by being on-camera.

The video interviews are available in this package.

After completion of the interviews, Lucaya's next order of business was to review the interviews and find an interesting topic that was discussed by the interviewee. This then allowed her to develop a more involved case study focusing on that specific topic. From these five interviews, she developed three case studies. One related to medical aspects of the red tide phenomenon, another focusing on glacial runoff and the final case study looked at coral reef bleaching.

The case studies are provided in this package.

This activity put two students in direct contact with ocean scientists and researchers. These students had little or no prior knowledge of the areas they would be investigating. They had little or no experience in interviewing, script development, case study development or video techniques. However, using their own skills and investigative processes, they were able to create a hands-on activity that produced quality results.

Most importantly, it allowed the project's students to not only interact with scientists, but to create an understanding of additional areas, through the creation of the case studies. By taking a single part of an interview and further developing this into something completely different can provide a wonderful learning opportunity.

This part of the project shows the educator that by allowing learners, at various education levels, to create their products it encourages the learner to go beyond what is visible on the surface. A project such as this gives learners the ability to develop, over a period of time, in-depth capabilities that go beyond the normal classroom environment.

On the surface, one might say that this could only work if the learner has the ability to physically visit a location or physically work with a researcher. That is not entirely correct. In the virtual world of the web and instantaneous communications, education and interaction is not limited to the physical realm.


The Interview/Case Study Project in the classroom

The high-school teacher in Kansas can have her students develop a similar project, even though they are nowhere near an ocean or marine research center.

The class is broken into groups, with each group consisting of an interviewer, script writer, project coordinator and production manager. While they may not have direct, physical access to a College of Marine Science, they can produce a similar product by using web/telephone activities. This can provide the group with essentially a global reach.

Each group determines one or more areas of interest. Each group is allocated a region or institutions to contact. This eliminates the potential of groups duplicating results and expands the areas of experience. The group would determine how they would conduct their interviews. This is determined by the technical capabilities of both the group and the interviewee.

Initial contact can be conducted by mail or email. In the initial contact, the group needs to clearly define their purpose to the potential interviewee. In the initial contact, they can try to determine the technical capabilities of the person to be interviewed. This can then relate to their own capabilities. In many cases, research and post-secondary institutions have web communication capabilities with video. These may or may not be easily used or access by the learners. In the case where neither party has web related communications, we have provided in this package information on easily accessed and no-cost, web-based communication products.


Script Development

In creating the interview script, there are several things to consider. The script itself is merely a guideline, to make certain that all primary points are covered. It becomes very easy to lose oneself in an interview process, especially one that lasts several hours. The script is mainly “talking points”, not necessarily a procedure to be followed by the letter.


  1. Are there going to be multiple interviews with several different people. In this case, there should be a generic interview script. It should be open-ended, allowing the interviewer and interviewee to be able to easily deviate from the script when areas of interest are discovered during the interview. The generic script should include questions on participant information, such as name, position, education and areas of research/academic interest. Information such as key developments, societal impacts and concerns should also be addressed.
  2. At the start of the interview, give an idea of how long the interview will take and basic information to be covered by the interview.
  3. Try to put the person being interviewed at ease. Have some small talk prior to starting the interview.
  4. If in person, do not place the camera directly in front of the interviewee. Set it to the side, at a slight angle where it will catch the best “side” of the person. This is determined by lighting conditions and other characteristics of the interview location. During the interview, have the person speak to you and not to the camera. It doesn't take long for the camera to “disappear” when this approach is used.
  5. Personal questions, that show an interest in the person being interviewed are very helpful. Try to obtain a personal story or a description of an event or action that is important to the person being interviewed.
  6. Proprietary Notations. These are questions relating to the interviewee's specific area of interest. The interviewer should have obtained at least a basic understanding of what the person being interviewed actually does.
  7. Perception Questions. These relate to how the interviewee perceives the public understanding of their work. It is good for the interviewer to relate their own conceptions/misconceptions in these areas.
  8. Interview control. This is an important area. The interviewer is in charge. While it is desired to get as much information as possible, there are times when an interviewee may become “long winded”. Do not be afraid to interject and guide, to move the conversation back to where you wish it to go. At the same time, do not interrupt constantly.



If possible, obtain background shots, pictures and information relating to the interview, interviewee and location. If doing the interview over the web, it may not be possible to physically shoot background images, but information may be obtained through various sources on the web. The interviewee may well have documentary type video, that they would allow to be used as background. Categorize and catalog everything. Be certain to follow copyright and proprietary guidelines when using any products obtained from third party sources.




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  2. Andrews, Kacky. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Informational Briefing and Lecture given on October 11, 2004. University of South Florida