Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
AK MARITIME: Environmental Educators Know How to Play Nice
Alaska Region, May 1, 2005
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A trip planning website for Homer-bound teachers, www.homerfieldtrips.com, is the latest product of a collaboration between the Alaska Maritime Refuge and local environmental education providers. The website puts most things a teacher would need to plan a successful trip at their fingertips: Who provides what programs? How to book them? Where to sleep and eat? and more. The website was funded by a State of Alaska Coastal Impact Assistance Program grant.

Coordinating field trips and programs in a town rich in environmental education providers is the best way to make the most efficient use of Refuge resources. In addition to the website, three cooperative groups have formed to meet this need. The Kachemak Bay Environmental Education Alliance shares information among all area providers. From the Alliance grew ?Partners in Education,? four local entities, including the Refuge, who jointly plan, staff and carry out programs every other month at each other's facilities. During spring break, the group held a ?Plankton Fest? at the Refuge's Islands & Ocean Visitor Center which drew 250 visitors. The combined staffs can offer more activities at each event, and the town likes to see the groups working together.

Three major environmental education centers span Alaska's huge Kenai Peninsula; the Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, the Alaska Sea Life Center, and the Challenger Learning Center united around their common interest in providing distance education to form the Kenai Peninsula Science Education Consortium. In its first year, this group initiated a three-credit teacher training course with units taught at each facility. Twenty teachers attended the Islands & Ocean section last October. A summer camp slated for June will allow students to travel to each facility.

Refuge Environmental Education Specialist Melonie Shipman spearheads these collaborative efforts. As a result Islands & Ocean Center saw 2,100 students in its first year, expected to rise by 10% in 2005. Some schools have started bringing all their students to spend an entire day at the center, leading Refuge Manager Greg Siekaniec to say, ?It's great ? as long as I don?t have to be principal!?

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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