FIU’s timely and impactful water-related research will soon bring alive the science concepts and lessons Monroe County students need to learn.
The Monroe County School District will be the first to take part in FIU’s curriculum program Mission Inspire. The subscription-based educational toolkit is designed for K-12 teachers and includes digital courses or “expeditions” that use real FIU research to make lessons relevant. The first two courses — Expedition Ocean and Expedition Biscayne Bay — will be taught in middle and high school science classes this fall.
“We are looking forward to bringing Florida to life for our students with relevant and engaging content about the world in their own backyard,” Assistant Principal for Key West High School and former Science Coordinator for the Monroe County School District Melissa Alsobrooks said. “Mission Inspire will be great curriculum to help connect our students to our Florida Keys environment.”
Mission Inspire grew out of the existing efforts led by the Education Outreach team in FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education. Through a variety of programming, Education Outreach provides activities and experiences to the community through events, field trips, camps, hands-on demonstrations and more.
In early 2020, Education Outreach were set to do a series of in-person fieldtrips for Monroe County Schools with funding from Royal Caribbean. After the first few, the global COVID-19 pandemic struck. The team pivoted to virtual fieldtrips. When those were done, the school system wanted to continue the partnership, mentioning their teachers needed more interactive content and curriculum for their classrooms.
Education Outreach decided to expand their programming — and came up with Mission Inspire. The team created everything that goes into each module, including lesson plans and other supplemental materials, like videos, and made sure each lesson in the learning modules ties back to research conducted by FIU scientists.
Expedition Ocean takes learning under the sea to FIU Aquarius, the world’s only underwater research and education laboratory. Lessons focus on different areas, from coral reef ecosystems to what it’s like for the scientists who live and work at Aquarius. Core lessons focus on gas laws that are taught through real-life scenarios, such as calculating how long a diver could stay underwater without getting decompression sickness.
Expedition Biscayne Bay is centered on research that happens in the bay. Last summer, high water temperatures coupled with high concentrations of phosphorus led to a massive fish kill. Researchers in the NSF-funded CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment in FIU’s Institute of Environment deployed special autonomous surface vessels to measure temperature, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll to understand what was happening. In one of the lessons, students will actually get to interpret and analyze water quality data collected and used by FIU scientists.
Teachers like Joylyn Smith — a Marine Science and Environmental Science teacher at Key West High School — are excited to use Mission Inspire curriculum in their classes.
“I'm looking forward to using these lessons to foster a sense of ownership in our local environment in my students,” Smith said. “I am a huge advocate of place based environmental education and these lessons are incredibly relevant and well thought out.”
Mission Inspire will be expanding to other schools soon. The Education Outreach team is also currently creating other courses, including Expedition Miami, Expedition Forensics, Expedition AstroScience and more. For more information, please click here.