Case Studies and Best Practices

Lincoln County, Oregon

Oregon Coast Aquarium, Lincoln County School District (LCSD), Oregon Sea Grant, and many other partners are working together to increase
LCSD students’ and teachers’ ocean literacy, improve STEM learning in schools, and incorporate promising elements of free choice or informal learning into classroom education.


The Aquarium and LCSD jointly fund a staff position hosted by the Aquarium to work with all the aquatic and marine science partners. The School district also funds a community resource/curriculum liaison at the district office.  The School Liaison addresses three specific areas as defined in concert with project partners. The School Liaison 1) integrates ocean science into classrooms; 2) provides systematic training and on-going pedagogic support for the teachers incorporating ocean sciences into the classroom; and 3) develops a multi-disciplinary, hands-on, cumulative K-12 ocean science curriculum.



How did this program come about?
  • In 2006, leadership from the LCSD, Aquarium, and Hatfield Marine Science Center began conversations about using local resources and strengths to create more opportunities for our local students.
  • In 2006/2007, the LCSD created its new strategic plan, which includes coordinating with partners to align science curriculum, giving LCSD students an opportunity to be the best-prepared oceanic science students in the country.
  • In 2007, LCSD funded a community resource/curriculum liaison at the district.
  • In 2009, the Aquarium and School District funded the school liaison position.
  • In 2009, LCSD, Oregon Sea Grant, OHSU, the Aquarium and many other partners, received an Oregon Department of Education Math and Science Partnership Grant (ODE MSP) to fund 3 years of professional development focused on ocean content and inquiry.
  • In 2010, eight teachers worked with the School Liaison to create specific goals and sub-goals for ocean literacy in Lincoln County and a guidance document on ocean literacy content to be included in grades K-8 as appropriate for state standards.
  • In 2010-2011, 13 teachers at three LCSD elementary schools participated in a Kindergarten-2nd grade pilot testing lesson plans and activities developed by the School Liaison for addressing ocean literacy at these grades while meeting science, reading and writing standards.
  • August 2011, nearly 300 LCSD teachers, LCSD administrators, informal educators and marine scientists convened at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center for the first Ocean Literacy Symposium. Over the course of the day, participants had the opportunity to attend their choice of 50 breakout sessions.
  • In the 2011-2012 school year, 16 LCSD teachers participated in a 3rd - 6th grade pilot similar to the K-2 pilot.
  • In the 2012 – 2013 school year, we are hosting the second annual Ocean Literacy Symposium, conducting our 7th – 8th grade pilot and implementing our second ODE MSP grant!
What was/has been/is hoped to be accomplished?
Our goal is to increase K-12 students’ ocean literacy through partnerships with K-12 teachers, administrators and other marine science institutions. More broadly, we strive to increase student’s overall interest and competency in science while supporting the need to focus on language arts and math. We accomplish this by training our teachers on ocean science content and best pedagogy practices in inquiry, and incorporating informal education sites.
What are the lessons learned? What advice do you have for others?
A district-wide project like this takes time - lots of time. Teachers must be engaged and see the value of changing their teaching practices and/or content, which requires working closely with them, supporting them, and providing resources for them.
Buy-in for a project like this must come from the administration and the teachers. Support from the Superintendent has been key – he has committed a number of different school district resources to make this project a success. Teachers must be excited about and see the relevance of implementation.
Every organization/agency in your community has their niche – let them fill it and succeed at it.
Teachers, principals, and administrators have their students’ best interest at heart but are overwhelmed by standards, requirements, and lack of time/resources. Informal education partners are their friends! They can provide resources and support. 
Are there possibilities for expansion or adoption by other entities?
Yes, our model worked by getting school district buy-in, and then working very closely with teachers to get them motivated. Our superintendent did not mandate this at first so it wasn’t one more requirement that already-overwhelmed teachers felt they needed to do. Engaged, enthusiastic teachers volunteered to start the program and have spread that enthusiasm to their schools.


Contacts and links to relevant resources:

Photo courtesy of California Coastal Commission