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Duke and UNC Students Team Up to Help K-12 Science Teachers

Educational exchange puts K-12 teachers in touch with marine scientists

Although Duke and UNC students will be battling each other on the basketball court Thursday night, other teams of students from both universities will be working together to bring new resources and opportunities to local K-12 science teachers.Members of the student-led SciREN, the Scientific Research and Education Network, will host their annual workshop for teachers at 7 p.m. at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The event unfortunately coincides with the rescheduled matchup of the basketball powers in Chapel Hill.More than 100 teachers from 10 North Carolina counties, and neighboring areas of Virginia and South Carolina, will take part in the workshop, accompanied by 80 marine scientists.  For the teachers, it's an opportunity to obtain new, classroom-ready science exercises based on North Carolina Essential Standards and to meet one-on-one with the scientists who created the exercises or whose research inspired them.For the scientists, it's a chance to hone their communication and educational outreach skills, promote scientific literacy and help make a difference for area teachers and students.  This year's workshop features more than 35 different new classroom exercises on topics ranging from sustainable fishing to coastal erosion and sea level rise. There are exercises appropriate for elementary, middle school or high school classrooms.SciREN was launched last year by PhD students at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences (UNC-IMS). This year, the leadership team expanded to include Duke University Marine Lab graduate students. "Duke and UNC are rivals on the basketball court, but we're on the same side when it comes to promoting marine conservation and science literacy," says Heather Heenehan, a third-year PhD student at the Duke Marine Lab.  "Our goal is to bring science to life in classrooms by making current research by local scientists accessible to K-12 teachers and their students." The number of teachers and scientists registered for this year's workshop is double that of last year, notes Alyse Larkin, also a third-year PhD student at the Duke Marine Lab.   "There is clearly a demand for this," Larkin says, "and not just on the coast. We heard from teachers in the mountains and western Piedmont who wanted to come but didn't have the resources to make the long trip, so we're hoping to add additional workshops in coming years in the Triangle or other locations across the state."Scientists from UNC-IMS, the Duke Marine Lab and 10 other universities, agencies or organizations developed classroom exercises and will take part in tonight's workshop.  They include faculty members and students from North Carolina State University; East Carolina University; UNC-Wilmington; NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System; North Carolina Sea Grant; the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries; the North Carolina Maritime Museum; Surfrider; Carteret Community College; and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.The annual SciREN workshop is sponsored by UNC-IMS and the Duke Marine Lab, which is part of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.  Facilities and in-kind support are provided by the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.UNC PhD students Avery Paxton, Justin Ridge and Ethan Theuerkauf team with Duke's Heenehan and Larkin to lead SciREN.