The Aquarium Education Department’s Ocean Stewardship Awards are one of the ways our educators recognize teachers and schools who are working to promote an ethic of ocean conservation and who are taking concrete steps to help protect our blue planet. We received a record number of nominations and were thrilled to hear about all the amazing work being done by teachers and schools across New England.

This year, we honored our winners at our World Oceans Day event on June 4. We would like to thank everyone who joined us for the celebration and all those who took the time to complete a nomination. Congratulations to all our winners!

Teacher Category Winner

gilmore stands next to harbor holding award
Robert Gilmore

Woodland Elementary School
Milford, MA

Bob engages his students in a number of specific projects and classroom activities that educate them directly and indirectly about ocean conservation. For example, they test the pH and turbidity of local waterways (part of the Charles River Watershed) seasonally to track changes and conduct macro-invertebrate population studies (including comparisons of a school retention pond versus a local lake). Also, he coordinates with the local highway department to have his students stencil “Drains to Stream” warnings near storm-water drains as a community-service project. Bob has ecologists and environmental engineers speak to his students about storm-water management issues in the community, including taking a walking field trip of the campus to examine local storm-water management efforts. Not only does he educate his students on storm-water management, Bob has them share what they learned by writing persuasive letters to local leaders and businesses encouraging improved storm-water management policies and practices.

Outside of the classroom, Bob has been the faculty adviser to the school’s Science Club, which has more than 100 members, for the past 10 years. He founded and directs a transformative three-week science summer camp experience called STREAMSS (Science-Technology-Reading-Engineering-Arts-Math-Social Studies) Village Science Summer Camp in Milford. STREAMSS Village invites campers to engage in hands-on and minds-on experimentation, design thinking, collaboration, and communication in a fun-filled and supportive environment for children entering grades 3-6.

Honorable Mention — Teacher

man stands next to harbor holding award
John Wigglesworth

Waring School
Beverly, MA

Since 1972, John has pursued a career that blends traditional and nontraditional education in an effort to create awareness and appreciation of the oceans through academic study and the opportunity to live and work at sea. John has spent stints of four to six months at sea as mate or master of traditional sailing ships engaged in sailing training or oceanographic research. With cruise tracks on major oceans of the world, he worked with students to help them learn about the oceans as they dealt with the realities of the safe and successful operation of ships at sea. Inspired by this 25 years of sea experience as a mariner, John brought his passion for the sea and ocean conservation to his classes. In each of his classes, students take on a variety of projects to learn about the ocean and its interaction with the atmosphere, geosphere, biosphere, climate, and people. John has designed numerous curricula on earth science, oceans, and climate. Each course has projects to fully research and study the ocean and its interactions. Not only does he work with his students in class, John has developed out-of-school programs, such as Oceanography of the Gulf or Maine and Science at SEA, to immerse kids in ocean studies.

Honorable Mention—Teacher

woman stands next to harbor holding award
Tara Villanova

Bernard F. Norton Elementary School
Cumberland, RI

As a visual arts teacher, Tara has developed ocean- and earth-themed art projects and events for students in grades K-5. These animal and ocean art lessons are not just about art, but include writing, advocacy, and ocean animal visits! This year, Tara received a grant and used it to have an ocean tank set up in the school. Biomes Marine Center set up the tank and gave live ocean animal presentations. This was the catalyst for everyone’s ocean art. Kindergarteners learned the parts of fish and how they breathe then created a fish collage. Afterward, kindergarteners read poems and nonfiction stories about octopuses and painted their own octopus! First-graders discussed sea turtles and the dangers they face. Their turtle collages included sentences they wrote about sea turtles. Second-graders explored printmaking while learning about ocean animals. Third-graders created murals inspired by the artwork and activism of Robert Wyland. They presented their artwork and advocacy to the school committee in May. Fourth-graders created underwater watercolor paintings while watching a live feed from an underwater camera on a coral reef. Fifth-graders made recycling posters for the school-wide Earth Week. Tara inspired her classes not just through science, but also creativity and expression.

Honorable Mention—Teacher

Seth Yaris

Norwich Free Academy
Norwich, CT

Seth’s goal as a marine educator is to make a clear connection between people and the ocean, regardless of ability, interest, or age. He is aware most of his students will not become scientists or choose science as a career, and even fewer will choose a career in ocean sciences. However, his students will be among future voters and decision makers. He believes it is critical that all students learn and understand how they are directly connected to the marine environment. He is also inspired to open students’ minds to the myriad possibilities for careers in ocean science and conservation. Seth has many ways in which he inspires his students to look closer at ocean sciences. His classes walk to a local estuary to do water testing on temperature, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen then graph the data and draw conclusions about water quality. He has coached a national ocean science bowl team for eight years, coming in fourth place twice. Seth keeps several aquariums in his classroom for his students to maintain.

School Group Category Winner

group stands next to harbor holding award
Johnson Elementary School

Principal Kevin Andrews
Nahant, MA

Being in a location surrounded by water, Johnson Elementary School students, staff, and community have a true appreciation for the value of the ocean. Projects and lessons throughout the disciplines are frequently themed around the ocean. One program that has taken place since 2015, thanks to support from the Nahant Education Foundation, is an immersive marine science curriculum led by Northeastern University Marine Science Center. This program involves classroom lessons and field trips to study marine topics, such as plankton, adaptations, and coastal geology. Another partner of the school, Salem Sound Coast Watch, leads programming related to watersheds and behaviors to improve environmental and water quality. Not only do students learn about the ocean, they have initiated conservation projects around their school and community. These projects include reviving the community garden behind the school, learning and practicing composting, and installing “No Idling” signs on school grounds. Students work together with local organizations such as the Nahant Department of Public Works, Nahant Garden Club, and teen mentors at Swampscott High School.

Honorable Mention—School Group

kids stand next to harbor holding award
Tower Lower School Environmental Club

Marblehead, MA

The Tower Lower School Environmental Club is a group of committed third- and fourth-graders whose love and respect for the blue planet around them is boundless. Spending recess time to research ocean pollution and its effects, these students brainstormed ideas on how their school could help. They shared their findings with their classmates through posters and a school assembly. Currently, the students are making biodegradable glycerin soaps in the shape of sea animals to sell at school. The funds raised will be put toward adopting a sea turtle.

Learn about past Ocean Stewardship Award winners here. Meet the 2018 Ocean Stewardship Award winners!