Education & Outreach

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) Education and Outreach (E&O) Program supports the missions of NOAA and partner organizations in the Gulf of Mexico region to develop an engaged and educated public who are better able to make scientifically informed decisions. The NGI E&O Program also supports the development of a workforce pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

The E&O Program engages a variety of audiences, including K-12 educators and students; scientists, university students, staff, and administration within its member academic institutions; its partners (NOAA and regional science-based organizations); the larger scientific community; and the public.

The program incorporates NGI research into professional development and workshops, K-12 activities and resources, activities and materials at science-related public events, and articles featuring NGI-funded researchers and their activities. Some teacher and student activities incorporate the arts into STEM subjects (STEAM) to encourage innovative and creative thinking in scientific approaches to real-world problems. Information is shared through a variety of avenues, including listserv emails, social media, the Portal newsletter, and its website.

For more information on the NGI E&O program, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Opportunities & Activities

Computational Thinking with 3D Weather Teacher Workshop The NGI E&O Director is part of a team awarded $1.63M through the National Science Foundation for the project “Integrating Computational Science Practice, Weather Data Analysis, and 3D Visualization in the Secondary Earth and Environmental Science Curriculum.” The workshop offers up to 8 CEUs and is available through summer 2022. Through this training, educators will develop materials for teaching computational thinking to K-12 students through explorations of atmospheric science and weather data using Unidata's Integrated Data Viewer (IDV). There is an online segment to learn background information for computational thinking and meteorology followed by an in-person segment to use IDV to visualize meteorology data, analyze the data using computational thinking skills, and modify existing lesson plans to incorporate computational thinking skills. For more information visit https://www.ece.msstate.edu/ece-professor-leads-teacher-workshops/ or contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Geoscience Field Course The NGI has joined with Mississippi State University Department of Geosciences and the Center for Distance Education to provide teachers and professionals with a 7–10-day geosciences field course for continuing education and/or 4 hours of graduate college credit. The course locations vary by year. A science background is helpful to successfully complete these courses. Costs include fees, tuition, travel, and meals. In 2021, the cost was about $3,000 not including meals and travel to the start locations. For more information, visit https://online.msstate.edu/geosciences/engs/field-methods/ or contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Geospatial Education and Outreach (GEO) Online Course The NGI and the Mississippi State University Geosystem Research Institute support professional development for its research community and individuals from local, state, and federal government through its GEO workshops. Courses are administered through the MSU Extension Canvas Learning Management System. Topics covered include an introduction to the basic concepts in geographic information systems (GIS), demonstration of GIS in QGIS software, and transitioning from ArcGIS to ArcGIS Pro. The GEO workshop is offered as a series of online, self-paced, instructor-guided courses that allow students flexibility to complete the work over a 6–8-week period. For more information, visit https://www.gri.msstate.edu/GEO/ or contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Customized Workshops for Educators and Other Regional Groups The NGI and its NOAA partners provide support for teacher workshops on topics related to ongoing research as the need arises. These workshops are conducted by staff at Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), Mississippi State University (MSU), and other NGI member institutions. For DISL-led workshops, contact Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Chair of Discovery Hall Programs at tmiller-way@disl.org. For MSU-led workshops and workshops led by other NGI member institutions, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

The NGI and its NOAA partners support and participate in community engagement workshops and topical working group meetings. For example, a recent workshop brought together farmers, fisherman, natural resource professionals, and agricultural industry leaders from across the Mississippi River Basin to learn from one another and brainstorm ways to reduce Gulf Hypoxia. Information presented included management strategies, water quality, and collaborative partnerships to address nutrient losses (see https://ngi.msstate.edu/news/story.php?d=847).For information on community engagement workshops, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Traveling Trunk Shows The NGI E&O Program has developed loanable "Traveling Trunk Shows" which include Art and Science-based curriculum (STEAM) designed to support the national college and career readiness standards. The trunk program offers classwork covering oceanographic, marine and fisheries science, and weather topics; provides students with direct observation and lessons in these sciences; and facilitates interaction among schoolchildren, parents, teachers, and administrators. Teachers interested in receiving a Traveling Trunk Show should contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Scientists Get Involved Program The NGI E&O Program provides assistance in locating a guest speaker for schools and organizations to discuss topics related to the NGI Research Themes (Climate Change and Climate Variability Effects on Regional Ecosystems; Coastal Hazards; Ecosystem Management; and Data Management Systems) as well as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in the environmental and agricultural sciences. Guest speakers are typically science, engineering, and mathematics faculty from the NGI member academic institutions.

The NGI E&O Program also participates in the Mississippi Science Teachers Association (MSTA) annual meeting, organizing scientists and staff to provide information to attendees on assistance that the scientists and curriculum development personnel can provide to their classrooms. The intent is to participate in the meetings of other regional and national teacher associations in the future.

Schools and organizations in the Gulf of Mexico region interested in having a scientist speak to their students or group should contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Students Get Involved Program The NGI E&O Program is piloting a program for scientists to involve high school students interested in earth and atmospheric science careers in data collection and fieldwork during summer semesters to support ongoing research in the region. So far, four Mississippi school districts (Oktibbeha, Desoto, Harrison, and Hancock Counties) have participated, and the intent is to implement this effort on a larger scale. Teachers and parents in the Gulf of Mexico region who are interested in having a student participate in this hands-on summer experience should contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Science Through the Arts The NGI E&O Program promotes STEAM engagement events, with demonstrations, displays, and activities for students and the public. STEAM programs add art to the STEM curriculum by drawing on design principles and encouraging creative solutions to societal issues.

Art and Design Competition The NGI E&O Program periodically hosts a STEAM art competition for original drawings, paintings, photography, or other rendering that depict the natural environment; marine, avian or aquatic species; the ocean, or weather related to the Gulf of Mexico region and its watershed areas. Competition winners will have their art featured in the Portal Newsletter and on the NGI website. For more information, please contact the NGI Education & Outreach Director Jonathan Harris at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

STEM/STEAM Children's Theatrical Production The NGI E&O Program together with the award-winning Theatre for Young Audiences playwright Tonya Hays create original musical plays that focus on climate change and the effects of climate variability upon marine ecosystems. This project takes the form of a traveling production that visits schools, bringing a message of science, understanding, and hope to student and providing them with scientifically accurate talking points and information to engage in meaningful dialogue with others. This project is an artistic approach to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) class lectures on topics by NOAA/NGI field specialists.

In 2019, the NGI E&O Program partnered with the Gulfport High School Theatre and Science Departments (Gulfport, Mississippi), creating an award-winning traveling play to help students understand the potential environmental and socio-economic threats posed by climate change. This project won several regional theatre awards including best original work and moved up to the State-Level theatre competition (Mississippi Theatre Association). This effort fostered a high level of interest in both socially-relevant issues and STEM/STEAM careers associated with environmental and climate science. For more information, please contact the NGI Education & Outreach Director Jonathan Harris at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

MSU-Science and Education at Sea (SEAS) Program The NGI E&O Program partnered with the Mississippi Aquarium (https://www.msaquarium.org/) to turn the state's Gulf Coast into an outdoor laboratory, giving middle and high school students new knowledge and appreciation for their connection with marine life and the environment through an innovative program, MSU-SEAS. The first cohort of 6-12 grade public and home-schooled students from Mississippi and Louisiana experienced a hands-on excursion to Horne Island, learning practices that promote sustainable choices in safeguarding the Gulf of Mexico's marine ecosystem. Hands-on activities included sampling for water quality, collecting seafloor sediment samples, and identifying various marine species, including invasive aquatic plants. For more information, please contact the NGI Education & Outreach Director Jonathan Harris at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Girls Engaged in Math & Science (GEMS) Program The NGI E&O Program and its partners at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) support the GEMS program in an annual event at the NASA Stennis Space Center. This event is designed to actively involve girls in STEM/STEAM related activities through interaction with working science professionals in an informal setting. The GEMS Program supports the national need to close the STEM/STEAM gender gap utilizing eight teaching strategies to encourage self-confidence and elevate interest in the areas of math and science with female students and strengthen their beliefs regarding their abilities in math and science. For more information, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Homeschool Days and Science Saturdays The NGI E&O Program joins NOAA and other regional science organizations to support local public science venues, such as the NASA Infinity Center and the Mississippi Aquarium, to share Gulf of Mexico research with school-age children and their families. Recent demonstrations have included a Go with the Flow! activity to show how people’s actions on land up and down the Mississippi River affect the health of Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystems and coastal communities. A recent guest oceanographer helped students learn about waves, barrier island movement and function, and how salt affects water properties. For more information, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

NASA Stennis Space Center’s Take Your Kids to Work Day As partners with NASA Stennis Space Center, the NGI E&O Program together with the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and the Gulf regional chapter of the Marine Technology Society (MTS) provide support for interactive educational activities during the annual Take-Your-Child-To-Work Day. Students between 9- and 14-years old watch demonstrations of technology such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and participate in hands-on activities such as collecting and analyzing data, which help to spark interest in the fields of marine and earth and atmospheric sciences. For more information, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Celebrate the Gulf Festival and Earth Day Celebrations The NGI E&O Program and its NOAA partners support local and regional science events such as Celebrate the Gulf (a Marine Science Festival) and the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center’s Earth Day, For information about having an NGI display/booth, activities, and materials at your event, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Career Days/Fairs The NGI E&O Program participates in career days/fairs at its member academic institutions (Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Florida State University, Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory, Louisiana State University, and the University of Alabama Huntsville). The goal is to make strides toward developing a STEM workforce for NOAA and organizations that rely on STEM expertise. For more information, contact Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director at jharris@ngi.msstate.edu, 662-325-3837, or EandO@ngi.msstate.edu.

Archived Education Programs

NOAA NGI EDAC Internship Program (Archived) Undergraduates majoring in Computer Engineering or other related disciplines wrote computer programs to improve maintenance of data files within the Ecosystem Data Assembly Center architecture and the OceanNOMADS data inventory.

NOAA NGI National Data Buoy Center Internship Program (Archived) Students from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines were provided the opportunity to work with senior scientists on meteorological and oceanographic sensor comparisons and systems engineering analysis.

NOAA NGI Diversity Internship Program (Archived) This internship program was administered by the NGI partner Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Students were selected based on their interests and availability to work in various research centers or field laboratories in the northern Gulf. They were teamed with a mentor who assigned them work relevant to the NGI mission and NOAA workforce development.

NOAA Career Roundtable (Archived) The NGI hosted a career roundtable at the annual NGI conference to introduce NOAA workforce opportunities to the next generation of science professionals in the region.

NGI Keycard Project (Archived) The NGI Keycard project educated Gulf Coast visitors via their hotel room keys. A series of hotel keycards were produced that showcased the Coast as a natural resource that needs to be protected by all. Each keycard in the series contained information about the coastal ecosystem and offered discounts on opportunities to experience the resources of this important geographic