Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Megan Strand and NESS and SENEME

Megan Strand is the NEOSEC representative from both New England Science & Sailing (NESS) and Southeastern New England Marine Educators (SENEME) and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. “I’m proud of being part of an awesome team at both places. We are passionate about what we do. We couldn’t do what we do without that passion.” When Megan first joined NESS, the NEOSEC representative was leaving and the 2016 summit planning was underway. Megan took on the role. “I never left the Planning Committee. It’s good to have people with different ideas – teamwork!” Both NESS and SENEME tie in with the NEOSEC mission. “You want to push the ocean literacy principles because everyone should have knowledge of the ocean. We are trying to keep ocean resources as healthy as possible.”

NESS is an ocean adventure non-profit that provides STEM-based education on and off the water. NESS operates year-round with families, schools, and organizations, including team-building programs for teachers and corporate groups. Megan is enthusiastic about her role as education specialist at NESS. “NESS provides a unique learning environment on the water. In one of my courses, I teach physics on a kayak. We can teach about physics by focusing on forces because while the water pushes the kayak up, gravity pushes the kayak down. Buoyancy comes into the equation and based on the surface area of the kayak, you have a floating boat. Add in the forces created when using a paddle and it’s a real-life physics lab! It’s fun – science learning as an adventure sport.” Megan sees that some students aren’t engaged at first. “It really, really bothers me when I get a student or group of students who have been told they can’t do something. They’ve lost self-worth. This leads to apathy towards education and our environment. I sometimes see this at the beginning of our program but then we get them outside and it doesn’t last long.”

NESS links all their plans to ocean literacy standards. “We are constantly building what schools don’t have the ability to do. They can come to us. We have programs that teachers can’t replicate.” Megan is currently learning how to program Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) so she can teach how to use computers to get real-time data. In addition to supporting traditional schools, NESS provides programs for home schooling, summer camp, and AmeriCorps at the New London middle school. Inclusiveness is one of the core values of NESS along with experiential learning, personal growth, and stewardship. Megan describes how NESS fulfills its values. “Sailing tends to be a money sport. Our president was concerned about that. He wanted to offer sailing to everyone. Our New London initiative is an inner-city program. Many of the students have never been on the water, even though the live on the coast. We really try to get everyone on the water, regardless of ability to pay.”

The SENEME regional chapter is a professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to the cause of marine education in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Megan serves as President. “I facilitate all the wonderful talents of other board members.” SENEME promotes marine education in many ways including publishing teaching aids, classroom resource lists, and a newsletter featuring bulletins about conferences and workshops. SENEME provides scholarships and mini grants for teachers. They also offer workshops, an annual conference, and field trips to diverse marine ecosystems throughout the region.   

Megan, thank you for your energy supporting the oceans and NEOSEC!

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