COSEE-OS and Framework puts Earth systems and ocean concepts front and center

This week Annette deCharon and Phoebe Jekielek of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences share information about the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence- Ocean Systems (COSEE-OS). COSEE-OS has wonderful resources that support the vision of Framework. 

The ocean shapes our earth, impacts our climate, provides habitat, and houses a countless number of natural resources that we use and rely on every day. The new Framework for K-12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards specifically highlight these roles and “opens the door” to incorporate Earth systems and ocean topics into classroom practice.. Specifically, the standards highlight the role of the ocean in regulating the global water cycle and climate. So you ask, how can I make room for the earth systems and oceans in my curriculum?

Ocean sciences are inherently interdisciplinary in nature, allowing for their use in illustrating all three dimensions laid out in the new Framework: (1) scientific and engineering practices; (2) crosscutting concepts; and (3) core ideas in physical, life, earth and space sciences and the engineering, technology and applications of those sciences. The Framework emphasizes two key ideas 1) the importance of focusing on interacting systems throughout K-12 science education; and 2) the need for students to gain a better understanding of the practice, process and content of science and engineering throughout K-12. The interdisciplinary nature of the Earth systems and the ocean illustrates and integrates concepts found in biology, chemistry, physics, geology, mathematics, technology, engineering, and provides connections with the scientific process.

The Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence- Ocean Systems (COSEE-OS) is an important resource. Since 2005, we’ve worked closely with scientists and teachers to create and deliver innovative classroom resources that incorporate ocean concepts. Resources include educational concept-mapping software, data sets for classroom manipulation, lab activities and a variety of content-driven webinars from ocean scientists across the country, all freely accessible to the public and found on our website ( COSEE-OS has also worked with the Mount Desert Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (BLOS) to provide financial support for Maine students and teachers to attend weeklong field experience and professional development opportunities with research scientists.

Students helping to restore eelgrass beds in Frenchman Bay with a weeklong field experience at MDIBL.

Teachers collecting data in a weeklong professional development opportunity with BLOS scientists.

Screen grab from the COSEE-Ocean Systems homepage.

COSEE-OS has developed a free and accessible suite of concept-mapping software, which is available for teacher use ( Concept maps can allow teachers and students to deconstruct complex ideas or processes into stories tailored to a specific audience. Concept maps can also be loaded with content in the form of images, videos, illustrations, news articles, and scientific literature. This software has been used in high school classrooms to show relationships and make connections between concepts taught by teachers. COSEE-OS has sponsored two webinars given by local Maine teachers on how to use concept maps in the classroom (Sue Klemmer) and how to incorporate ocean sciences and inquiry-based education into classrooms (Ted Taylor).

Scientists also use COSEE-OS concept-mapping software to explain their research. For example, COSEE-OS teamed up with MDIBL to bring the research of Dr. Hilary Neckles, U.S. Geological Survey (Augusta), to educators and the general public in a one-hour webinar, complete with an interactive concept map highlighting the ecology of eelgrass, its range and services, threats to its existence and efforts to preserve it. Many other scientists have been featured in our Research-based Online Learning Experiences (ROLE) Model webinar series (, providing a wide range in disciplines from physical and chemical oceanographers to ecologists and biologists. The science comes alive when the presenters address the reasoning and importance behind the questions they ask, the process of research and technology development, the analysis of data, and the application of their science to society. These interactive webinars – and the online archives – are great tools for providing insight into how researchers view the scientific process, navigate through the challenges the process presents, engineer cohesive projects, and place their often narrowly-focused discipline into a broader context.

Example of a public concept map and asset examples from Dr. Hilary Neckles’ webinar titled Essential Eelgrass: Ecology of a Vital Resource in Maine’s Coastal Waters. Get access to this and more than 100 other scientist-created maps at

The Framework for K-12 Science Education highlights the ocean’s crucial role in Earth systems, and COSEE-OS has lots of tools to support the vision and make these ideas accessible to you and your students!