Corrine Steever is a NEOSEC representative from the New England Aquarium and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. Corrine describes her NEOSEC role, “Because of the New England Aquarium’s role as the NEOSEC host institution, we always take a role in Summit planning. I am excited to be more involved with NEOSEC. I am energized by other NEOSEC members at our meetings. They made me want to be part of having a great Summit in Boston. Bringing together science and education is my world. We showcase teachers as scientists.”
Corrine is the Teacher Services Supervisor at the New England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center (TRC.) TRC supports teachers for grades pre-K to 12 as well as out-of-school instructors and informal educators. TRC offers a meeting place, free consultation appointments, research assistance, and access to a large collection of loan materials. TRC provides theme-based kits on a variety of topics to make ocean education engaging, inspiring, and informative. Most visitors are from New England, but they also come from around the world.
Growing up in Minnesota, Corrine did not originally dream of being a marine science educator. “Originally I was interested in the arts. But in my third year of college, I decided to major in biology with a minor in psychology. I was interested in animal behavior. I thought I would be a field researcher. Then I got a phone call from the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps. My friend had recommended me for a job in western Massachusetts teaching in a K-6 school along with doing trail work in the summer. Two things were new to me: teaching and eating vegetarian!”
Corrine discovered a love for education and wanted to balance that with her love for animals. “Next I took on an outdoor education role in Georgia. I also took care of their small animal collection, including a herp lab.” That gave her the hands-on animal experience for her next job at Zoo New England. She then moved into professional development programs at the zoo. “I helped educators enhance their lessons with an inquiry style of teaching. I felt impactful doing the professional development work. The ripple effect was much bigger than a single hour in a classroom.” Corrine was doing less direct animal care which had been her strong interest. She moved to the Denver Zoological Foundation where animal husbandry was a big part of her role, although she still worked in the education department alongside education staff. “I missed teaching and providing professional development. I was looking to get back to that when someone forwarded me the New England Aquarium position. I’m learning a lot on the job. I show teachers that it’s okay to not know everything. It’s more the style of teaching, not knowing every fact. Teachers can build context with students.”
Corrine addresses the occasional negative connotations some people may have about zoos and aquariums. “People may think ‘They’re caging animals. They’re out of their natural environment.’ There’s so much more to it. We help engage a connection with visitors. The animals act as ambassadors so that people want to protect, appreciate, and understand diverse life. The staff have a dedication to the work.”
Corrine is concerned that people are not having constructive communication. “It’s hard right now. There’s a divide that’s growing more. People share strong opinions on social media but don’t have a conversation. I think most of us aren’t at extreme ends. We can have productive dialogues. We need to understand why people feel the way they do. We need to work to help people understand the science of climate change. We need to address basic human needs: food, water, shelter, safe spaces.”
Corrine is proud of her adventurous spirit. “I’ve had a lot of different experiences. My past has given me a lot of confidence. I left Minnesota and just went for it. I became willing to move, be adventurous, and have curiosity. It was okay to not know people. Instead, I thought ‘Who am I going to meet? Who will give me insight into the world?’”
Thank you Corrine for bringing your can-do spirit to the New England Aquarium and NEOSEC!