Water Advocates and Visionaries for the Environment and Sea

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rosenstiel school

WAVES: Water Advocates and Visionaries for the Environment and Sea

WAVES is a community engagement and educational outreach program designed to improve access to marine science and conservation for K-12 students. This program has evolved from Ocean Kids, which was originally founded in 2008 by Dr. Jill Richardson for elementary students. The mission of WAVES is to provide early access to ocean STEM education and a college campus for underrepresented minorities in STEM; broaden participation in marine science and affirm STEM identities; promote inclusion in ocean conservation through culturally relevant curricula and activities; and engage Rosenstiel volunteers in civic engagement.

The WAVES program consists of immersive field trips, school visits, and events where graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science share their passion for science and ocean conservation with K-12 students. At WAVES field trips, students visit various educational stations with locally relevant themes to improve ocean literacy through hands-on activities. Each station is hosted by undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff from different Rosenstiel research laboratories and local non-profits to give students an immersive look into different fields and career paths.

Additionally, we have developed WAVES educational kits that contain detailed lesson plans, presentation slides, and laboratory supplies to complete 10+ hands-on active learning activities in a classroom. These kits have been distributed to local K-12 schools in Miami-Dade so teachers can implement cutting-edge marine science and conservation curricula in their classrooms at no cost.

Children are naturally inquisitive, but studies show that their interest in STEM wanes by the time they reach middle school without equitable access to STEM opportunities. Additionally, opportunity gaps in science among underrepresented minority groups in K-12 education result in reduced enrollment and success in secondary and collegiate settings. Thus, by building relationships with K-12 schools and students, providing access to experiential marine science and conservation curricula, and establishing a sense of belonging and inclusion on a college campus, our goal is to help students envision their path to college and a potential future career in STEM as well as join the environmental justice movement to conserve our oceans and South Florida’s unique coastlines.

To date, we have reached over 3,500 K-12 students through our events and lesson plans. This program has been acknowledged by the local media, The Clinton Global Initiative U (Extraordinary Commitment to Action), UM SOAR Awards (Excellence in Programming), Miami-Dade Public Schools (Excellence in Service), the UM Citizen Board, and MTV’s “The Dean’s List”.

WAVES is directed by Dr. Maria Cartolano. There are paid graduate student internship opportunities for WAVES curriculum development and event organization and students enrolled in the course RSM 541/641 (Broadening Participation in Marine Science) assist with the planning and implementation of WAVES field trips. In collaboration with the Robert K. Johnson Center for Marine Conservation, we continue to expand this program. If you are an educator interested in WAVES field trips and resources, please email mcartolano@miami.edu.

If you are interested in contributing to future events or kit development, please click the orange button above to support WAVES!

Media links about previous events: