OCEANIA Marine Educators Association

OCEANIA Marine Educators Association

Monday, April 2, 2012

OCEANIA Conference: Telling Stories in Interpretation and Education

We had a wonderful weekend event. Over 50 folks signed up. NAI - the National Association of Interpretation co-hosted the event. More on the range of groups below, but first a story to start out.

Virtually every time I take a group by the shark lagoons, people see one of the spiny pufferfishes, which swim right up to the wall to see if we have anything to feed them. The people always say....

Oooh, CUTE!

And I nod... they are indeed that.

I could tell you a different story, to give another perspective - one day I watched this same pufferfish pull a beautiful little crab from the wall.  The puffer began to chew on it, breaking its shell up and spitting it out bit by bit, leaving the crab skinned alive and unable to escape. Finally, after some time, the pufferfish swallowed the crab whole, still struggling...

Or I could recount the story from John Hoover's book about the dive guide that petted a pufferfish on the head, then waggled his fingers in front of it to try and lure it out of its' hole. It came out all right, and took off  part of his little finger, leaving him rather shocked and with just a stump left. So which is it, cute little fish or nasty predator?

Neither or both of course, it is simply a pufferfish. It is it's own creature and our relationship to it is our responsibility.

Which brings us back to stories. A story can just be to entertain, or to educate. If the intent is to educate, then the storyteller has to think about the words they use and where the story is going. What are the people actually going to "see" or think when they walk away? What will they remember? Stories are powerful.

In the pufferfish's case cute is a start, but I like to take the audience past that, to go deeper. So I might tell an additional story to counterbalance, like above, then on to the middle ground. I will have to decide how emotion laden the words are that I choose, it will depend on the group.  Ultimately, I hope they can see the animal as not good or evil, but important, magnificent even - a fish that can crunch up crabs and snails like candy, has big eyes to hunt at dusk and dawn. A fish that can inflate with water and turn into an inedible spiny volleyball. A fish that, if it does get eaten, is poisonous. These are very cool fish.

Interpreters and volunteers at museums, parks and monuments and even classroom teachers know all about story telling. We use it as part of our work. But story telling is a very wide set of skills and abilities. We can all get better at it if we try.

So it was a wonderful opportunity this last weekend to be able to host an event on story telling in interpretation and education. Master story teller Jeff Gere was there to show us how to animate a story - drawing us in with his performance skills and ability to take a common story and make it so much more.

Mehelani Cypher from the Ko'oluapoko Hawaiian Civic Club was there to help us find our place on this island, Moku o Lo'e, in this bay, Kane'ohe, in this ahupua'a, He'eia. She centered us with a very quiet and direct style. I started to feel grounded, to know where I really was.

And others pitched in - we had folks from the National Park Service's Arizona Memorial, from Mission Houses Museum, Atlantis Submarines, Manoa Heritage Center, Shaka KayaksKualoa Ranch, the Honolulu Zoo, Reef Watch WaikikiHanafuda Hawaii StyleNOAA Pacific Fisheries Service, story tellers, educators ... and much more. It was an exceptional group of people brought together to learn from each other and  about how we tell stories.

I encourage you to think about the stories you tell every day. Where are you going with them? What is your style? How can you get better? I encourage you to go to any of the sites linked to above to see interpretation in action!

We look forward to having another event like this down the line. In the meantime, many thanks to the host and associated organizations.

OCEANIA, the local chapter of the National Marine Educator's Association. Are you a formal or informal educator? Join us!

HIMB, the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. If you have not come for a tour lately, come on by. If you are interested in volunteering, or just keeping track of what we are doing, let us know.

NAI, the National Association for Interpretation that many of us have taken formal training from. Many of the folks in this workshop are members. Check out their website or consider doing one of their training sessions.

and COSEE (Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence), a national initiative now funded locally to promote ocean excellence and education.

And those cute pufferfishes? Try not to pet them.


Mark Heckman

Hoover, John, Nov. 2010, The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals  Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, Hawaii. pg. 221. NOTE - this is a great book for ID's and stories about the animals - MH.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

OCEANIA Share-a-Thon February 2012


OCEANIA member meeting potluck and NMEA recruitment session. Photo by Alyssa Gundersen.

OCEANIA Share-a-Thon
OCEANIA hosted our annual member meeting Feb 2nd, 2012. A Share-a-Thon modeled after the annual NMEA event allowed members to share their projects, research, and opportunities with each other. Highlights of the Share-a-Thon included:

Updates from the volunteer program at Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB).
Mark Heckman shared lessons learned from his volunteer coordination efforts. He uses a volunteer blog to update his crew, and it’s open to the public. Check it out!

HIMB volunteers in action. Photo by Mark Heckman.

HIMB Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research Partnership New Website
Carlie Wiener shared the new website. Google analytics is helping her to better engage the public and tell what efforts are working. She is seeing spikes in traffic after her monthly press releases. Check out the website – there are current events and other goodies too (even a science glossary)

Carlie Wiener shares the new NWHI research website. Photo by Alyssa Gundersen.

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
Sylvia Spalding shared the new management website, which has games, the names of fish in the jurisdiction in various languages, as well as video pod-casts. Check out the resources!
·       www.wpcouncil.org
·       www.ahamoku.org  - resources, fishpond observation log

Hawaiian Fishpond Project: Laulima A Ike Pono
Judy Lemus shared opportunities for local community members (students or otherwise) to gain experience through research & cultural education. Currently interns (6 months at a time) work with grad students on their research. The interns then come back to serve as mentor interns, ocean awareness training participants are mentored by current interns. OCEANIA is planning a field trip to work at the fishpond this fall.

Judy Lemus, with assistance from Liz Kumabe, presents about the Laulima A Ike Pono project. Photo by Alyssa Gundersen.

Exploring Our Fluid Earth Curriculum & Ocean Literacy Lesson Plans
Alyssa Gundersen and Lauren Kaupp presented about a new marine science curriculum based on the Teaching Science as Inquiry model (inquiry experiential learning) from the University of Hawaii’s Curriculum Research & Development Group and UH Sea Grant. Teachers in Hawaii are currently piloting the curriculum and website. In summer 2013, material will be available to the public. Student materials will be free, and paying teachers will be able to interact and share materials. Five modules will focus on connections between the ocean literacty principles and physical, Chemical, Biological, Ecology, and Practices of Science Content. Sign up to be notified when material is available:

Preview of the Exploring Our Fluid Earth Curriculum and Online Learning Community site.