Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Rivers to Reefs 2014
Mission Information
 

WORKSHOP INTRODUCTION

Water sampling and observing stream characteristics at Shoal Creek.

Water sampling and observing stream characteristics at Shoal Creek.
(Photo: Amy Rath, GRNMS)

The 11th annual Rivers to Reefs Workshop for Educators will offer experiences which immerse teachers in the seventh largest watershed on the eastern seaboard; the watershed that directly influences Georgia's coastal waters and, ultimately, Gray's Reef. The workshop will introduce participants to the Altamaha River Watershed and impress upon them our own impacts to this natural system. Building upon these understandings, teachers will discover the ways in which the waters flowing through the watershed influence Gray's Reef and other offshore habitats. Gray's Reef staff partners with Georgia Aquarium, UGA's Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Gordon State College to empower each participant with background information, tools, activities, materials and hands-on field experiences.

Collecting water samples on the Ocmulgee River

Collecting water samples on the Ocmulgee River
(Photo: Amy Rath, GRNMS)

A visit to the Georgia Aquarium will begin the workshop with an introductory orientation. Here, huge whale sharks, manta rays and sawfish will glide past enormous viewing areas as secrets are revealed about the technology and expertise required for keeping sea creatures healthy and happy in the world's largest aquarium.

The 16 participating teachers will begin their field experience in DeKalb County at Shoal Creek in ankle-deep water where they'll take their first water samples. At each stop along the Altamaha River Watershed, teachers will collect water samples and conduct water quality tests. Other environmental factors such as air and water temperature, general characteristics the area and weather conditions will also be recorded. This collection of factors will be used to determine the overall health of the creeks and streams. Throughout the workshop, teachers will repeat these tests to build a profile of the entire watershed from beginning to end... from the metropolis of Atlanta all the way to Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary... from Rivers to Reefs.

Bottom-depth water sample on the Altamaha River

Bottom-depth water sample on the Altamaha River.
(Photo: Amy Rath, GRNMS)

A canoe trip down the Ocmulgee River to where it conjoins the Oconee will thrill as these rivers collide head-on, creating high profile ripples, and forming the mighty Altamaha River. A boat ride along the Altamaha River will uncover a mystery at a place where saltwater meets freshwater and where there is an abundance of shorebirds and alligators.

On Sapelo Island we will explore natural and cultural resources through its people and its habitats. Staff of Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve (SINERR) will give us an overview of their ongoing research projects and the island's general state of health and lead us in collecting and investigating dock fouling organisms. Teachers will learn more than they've imagined about the productivity, protectiveness, and stability of Georgia's salt marshes. We will learn about the connection of SINERR to Gray's Reef, both part of the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Both of these programs are charged with protecting resources, one a barrier island and the other an ocean habitat, that are integrally linked. We will take time to thoroughly investigate the ecology of beach communities, maritime forests and the expansive marsh.

Canoeing the Altamaha River

Canoeing the Altamaha River
(Photo: Amy Rath, GRNMS)

At the end of each day, we will recap our day's adventures and lessons learned to help our teachers plan how they will incorporate these new concepts into their own classrooms. Teachers will share their ideas and, most importantly, their "aha" moments. Evaluations will help leaders know how to reach the goal of turning out watershed-literate ocean stewards. Professional Learning Units or PLUs will be awarded to those completing the requirements of the workshop. Each day journals will be used to record ideas, thoughts, questions and reflections on what our teachers are doing, learning and experiencing. Teachers will come to know that their own personal interpretations of the experiences will be special when brought to their students who may never get to experience a marsh, a wetland, an island, or the ocean in this way. Rivers to Reefs will not only help participants to become stewards of our watershed and ocean but also will inspire them to share the value of their new knowledge with their own communities.

An all day cruise aboard the RV Savannah, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography's research vessel, will take the group offshore to Gray's Reef. While on location, Gray's Reef divers, along with the ship's crew, will deploy the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to allow participants to see the reef in real time without getting wet.

Cast net throws from a dock at Sapelo Island NERR..

Cast net throws from a dock at Sapelo Island NERR.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

If you are interested in how the Rivers-to-Reefs Educators Workshop could improve your understanding of our influence on watersheds and the subsequent impacts to our water resources, read this attached poem written by an 11 year old student who joined her mother, Amy Rath, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, for just the first day of the 2013 Rivers-to-Reefs Teacher Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. In a behind-the-scenes tour of the Georgia Aquarium, she discovered a project called "River Words," which encouraged students to create an artistic piece inspired by their own thoughts and experiences with rivers. The following morning, while quietly observing a gear-up session on watersheds with the teacher group, Jaiden composed this very expressive poem: The River of Life, by Jaiden Rath.

Funding for the 2014 Rivers to Reefs Educators Workshop has been provided by an Improving Higher Education Teacher Quality Grant, University of Georgia, Georgia Aquarium, Gordon College and Grays' Reef National Marine Sanctuary.


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