One of the first things South Jordan Middle School science teacher Scott Roskelley tells his marine science students is that the ocean affects the world around them, even in land-locked Utah.
“This class allows students to explore the different areas of the ocean and how we impact it, both in good and bad ways,” he said.
In cooperation with the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, funding from the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative and the support of South Jordan Middle School and Jordan School District administrators, Roskelley was able to create a non-credit, 16-week marine science course for ninth-grade students. The after-school class meets for two hours every Tuesday at the aquarium, which provides classroom and laboratory space.
Roskelley said 34 students signed up for the class, but the class size was limited to 16.
“I knew I had some students interested in marine science, but I was really surprised at the number of students who are willing to put in the work for a non-credit class. These kids are here because they really want to learn about marine science,” he said.
The class covers characteristics of seawater, currents and tides, plankton, invertebrates, marine plants, boney fishes, cartilaginous fishes, marine birds and mammals and ecosystems.
Roskelley, who has his master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, developed the class and has used material from the University of Alaska — Fairbanks as a framework for the course syllabus.
Since there was more demand for the class than spots available, Roskelley is looking into teaching classes this spring and summer. He also is working with the district to offer credit for those students enrolled in the course and to get additional microscopes and other equipment for the class.
Within each lesson, students are required to do research, write reports, create power-point presentations or perform laboratories.
“Students are learning math, science, English, public speaking and skills they can use in a career in marine science or another field,” Roskelley said.
The final lesson in his course brings it back to human impact on the ocean. Roskelley acknowledged that generally the focus is on pollution, habitat loss and the effects of technology on wildlife, but he wants students to learn positive ways humans have influence with the ocean.
“We’ll brainstorm concepts and then have students write a report, create a tri-fold, or develop a power point to present what they’ve learned to the class. We know there are efforts that have helped with our oceans. This allows students to use an idea they want to show a positive impact as well,” he said.