From the field: Aquatic defenders hit the classroom

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In a previous post about the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay’s efforts to make a difference in the community, I posed the question, “What do you do to make a difference in your community?”

Well, Chief Warrant Officer John Maurer from Marine Safety Detachment Massena, N.Y., stepped up and sent me the following story about the MSD crew’s efforts to educate Sea Partner students in the Massena area over the past few months. Great job, shipmates!

“Dubbed the ‘Aquatic Defenders’ by a local newspaper, Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Massena Petty Officers spent this winter conducting highly educational environmental outreach presentations to local elementary, middle and high schools in the Massena area, as part of the U.S. Coast Guard‘s Sea Partners Program. The Sea Partners program was developed to educate students on safeguarding the local environment from oil, chemicals, and garbage as well as practices to mitigate the spread of aquatic invasive species potentially carried in the ballast water of ships traveling the St. Lawrence Seaway.

As part of the preparation, the MSD Massena Sea Partners team created a detailed list of objectives that were required to be met to comprehensively educate the target audiences on the roles of the Coast Guard and of the specific roles of MSD Massena personnel. Once the initial program objectives were clearly defined, the Sea Partners team began contacting local science teachers to gather information to fine tune the presentation to best tie in with the school’s curriculum, as well as scheduling preliminary dates to give the presentation.

Once the team had gathered enough information they began to use their work experiences from MSD Massena as well as a wealth of general Coast Guard knowledge gained from previous units to develop a dynamic multimedia presentation.

The presentations began with an informative and entertaining program that broadly outlined the core missions of the modern Coast Guard, followed by a brief synopsis of major maritime pollution incidents on the national as well as the local levels. This synopsis highlighted the importance of the Coast Guard’s duty as the primary federal agency charged with the enforcement of both oil and chemical pollution laws and regulations in all navigable waterways of the United States.

The core of the presentation revolved around aquatic invasive species, the damage that they inflict on the Great Lakes and what the Coast Guard and general public can do to prevent the introduction of any new aquatic invasive species. The presentation is followed up with a live action demonstration of the various tools used by MSD Massena to examine ballast water and static displays of the most notorious aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Thus far, the program has been a major success reaching over 750 students in 6 schools. The overall message contained in the Sea Partners presentation has spread beyond the school walls as the program earned the coveted lead story spot on the front page of the Friday February 26th , 2010 edition of the Malone Telegram.

A secondary benefit of the outreach assisted the Coast Guard’s recruiting effort, most notably in Syracuse, New York during the Soule Middle School ‘Green Initiative.’ Strategic use of recruiting materials provided by Recruiting Office Syracuse, NY cemented MSD Massena’s role as ‘Aquatic Defenders’ in the minds of students. After each presentation the Sea Partners team asked students questions about the material they learned, and with each correct answer a recruiting promotional item was awarded to the student that responded first.

The students all enjoyed showing off their new Coast Guard paraphernalia to their fellow classmates!

Future plans for the MSD Massena Sea Partners include fielding an elementary school presentation to reach younger students. The Sea Partners hope to highlight MSD Massena’s goal of protecting the pristine North Country environment by enlisting the aid of the region’s youth.”

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