Congratulations to our 2021 Educator Innovation Award winners! We are thrilled to recognize the following teachers who effectively used the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest in their classrooms to educate their students about critical water issues, and empowered them to be creative stewards of our blue planet.
Thank you for your resourcefulness, adaptability, and commitment, especially during what was perhaps the most unusual and difficult school year in recent memory!
Clark Magnet High School (California, United States)
Dominique brought the Ocean Awareness Contest into her classroom—and even made it a mandatory assignment for her AP Environmental Science classes—because it was the perfect culminating project following her lessons on the human impacts of climate change on the environment, and because she loves empowering student creativity. Dominique aims to encourage her students to express themselves and to share their feelings on environmental stewardship, to consider the impact they have on the environment as they live their daily lives, and to consider how they can reduce that impact by taking some simple steps to mitigate the negative effects they may otherwise incur. Some of her students wrote poetry, others created art, but they all conveyed a passionate message of wanting to do their part in conserving our natural resources and educating others to do the same.
“The Ocean Awareness Contest is the perfect way to end the school year. It fits well with the curriculum in all the classes I teach, and it re-engages students who have mentally checked out. By creating works of art, they not only understand the issues better, they connect on an emotional level and begin to feel the issues. Since middle and high school can be a very emotionally volatile time in students’ lives, introducing the issues facing our ocean today as a school project makes an impact that will last a lifetime.”
Millennium School (California, United States)
Stephanie created a course called “Can we speak for our oceans?” that used ocean literacy standards and Next Generation Science Standards to teach her 7th-grade students about their water supply, water as a human right, and an assortment of ocean-related topics. In the final term of an unusual year, she wanted to inspire and motivate her students about their capacity to make an impact on the environment, so she made the Ocean Awareness Contest the culminating project of her five-week class. Stephanie organized three field trips or virtual visitors as part of her course, including an interactive Q&A with Bow Seat staff.
“Normally, it is a challenging task to teach middle schoolers about the ocean and our changing climate. Given the complexity of the science and the often-negative news about the planet’s water, students can be left feeling confused, or worse, disheartened. Still, it is important for students to understand where this valuable liquid resource comes from, how it moves around the globe, and how we affect it for better or worse. By framing my class’s culminating project with Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest, students had a chance to express their voices and knowledge in authentic and truly meaningful ways. Students shared that they not only enjoyed deepening their knowledge to create their art, they also felt empowered to make a change.”
Peak to Peak High School (Colorado, United States)
For Kristie, the past year was the strangest and most difficult that she has ever had in her 20 years as a public-school teacher, but she found the Ocean Awareness Contest to be an effective tool to celebrate her students’ creativity and their power to change the world. It also provided Kristie and her students—who attended school remotely for most of the year—with an innovative way to inspire and connect with each other. They educated each other on water issues and built collaborative knowledge networks. The Contest gave her isolated students an opportunity not just to envision change, but to realize that vision through art, writing, and activism.
To address the inequities around her students’ access to supplies, Kristie and her daughters put together 167 bags that included prototyping materials, pencils, pens, paints, popsicle sticks, and more so that every student had the opportunity to create something amazing.
“The Contest focused our attention on a huge environmental issue in the world, gave students a choice on how to express themselves, and most importantly, empowered them to share their visions of ‘Water Rising’ from their own understanding, empathy, and concerns. The personalization of the Contest prompts gave the topic more relevance and immediacy. The fact that artistic engagement was encouraged also had an extraordinary effect. Students who never saw their love of poetry or painting as a talent useful in achieving societal change realized that these art forms had importance and impact. By creating their own visions, and answering the call to think about how they might be part of the change, students were empowered.”
VSA Art+Design Studio (Canada)
Vals was nominated by three of his students for the Educator Innovation Award; they each noted his strong commitment to teaching his students that they can use their creativity and artistic voices to show their concern for the ocean and marine wildlife. Vals created lesson plans and provided a variety of resources to help his students keep on top of their art-making progress as well as to better understand ocean issues.
“One thing I try to teach my students is that social and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand with art. An important part of an artist’s job is to recognize the problematic conditions in our world, and to shine a spotlight on them. This is especially true if we are ever fortunate enough to be afforded a platform for reaching a larger audience. Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest is such a platform that provides a terrific way for students to experience sharing their work with more viewers. I hope we can all keep working hard even in these challenging times to provide students the opportunities they need to be inspired, empowered, and creative.”
Jakande Estate Comprehensive Senior College (Nigeria)
Soji introduced his class to the Ocean Awareness Contest to deepen their knowledge of and interest in water issues locally and globally. Through virtual field trips to different communities across Africa, he taught them about areas facing environmental crises, especially petroleum spillage due to mining activities, as well as introduced them to young people who are taking action to combat water and climate problems. Soji also introduced the Contest to the entire school community through group projects and essay writing, and shared the opportunity with students at a community center.
“Being selected for the 2021 cohort will serve as an enabler for the work I do in my school, my classroom, and my community. This selection will shine light on the great work that my students are doing to bring the needed change to the community. This award is a testimony to the significance of the role of climate change awareness for improved behaviour towards our water resources, climate, and the aquatic habitat, and for empowering students at all levels to secure ‘the future in focus.’”
2021 Bay State Educator Award
This special recognition celebrates a teacher who exemplifies creativity and stewardship in their work with young people in Massachusetts. The award package includes a $500 classroom grant.
Northampton High School (Massachusetts)
Megan believes the most essential work of educators in the 21st century is to help young people find their role as active members of their local and global communities. She brought the Ocean Awareness Contest into her classroom because it provided her with lessons and resources that supported the Climate Science curriculum she created, which invited her students to explore the importance of conservation and social justice, as well as the impacts of consumerism and political inaction on biological and social systems. Her Climate Science curriculum also focused on teaching students both the role of productive communication in transformative movements, and the ways in which art can be used as a means to convey information and advocate for change.
Megan plans to use the classroom grant to improve a greenhouse space in her new school, with the hope of developing a botany class where students can explore the same core ideas of her Climate Science curriculum through the lens of gardening and food justice.
“Bow Seat’s Resource Studio gave my students a fabulous entry point into conversations related to using art as a means by which to communicate scientific ideas. Analyzing works of art by young people and reading their reflections was very empowering to my students. In the past, I have used climate art made by adult artists, but transitioning to Bow Seat’s Gallery led to a much higher degree of student buy-in, because the work was done by their ‘global peers’! Additionally, as we worked through a semester of fully remote learning, it was essential to me that I was taking time out of my classes to give students the opportunity to make art. Having a contest to discuss with students gave them some extra incentive to create their best works.”