URI launches Smithsonian partnership through leadership of Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – July 20, 2009 – The Office of Marine Programs at the University of Rhode Island, which leads the national Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Network, has established a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History to provide marine science education programming at the museum.

A new staff member, hired jointly by COSEE and the Smithsonian, is working with URI’s Gail Scowcroft, the national network director of COSEE, to develop ocean science education programming for the millions of visitors that travel each year to visit the new Sant Ocean Hall, the largest museum exhibition in the country.

The partnership is funded in part by a 5-year, $2 million grant awarded to URI last year by the National Science Foundation to serve as the central coordinating office for the COSEE Network, which promotes partnerships between research scientists and educators and also promotes ocean science education as an interdisciplinary vehicle for creating a more scientifically literate citizenry.

“This is a very prestigious opportunity for the Graduate School of Oceanography. COSEE is the premier ocean science education network in the U.S., and the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum complex and research organization,” said Scowcroft, associate director of the URI Office of Marine Programs. “It allows us to further extend our reach as leaders in ocean science education around the country.”

Each of the 12 regional COSEE centers is a consortium of ocean science research institutions, informal science education organizations like museums and aquariums, and formal education entities like state and local school districts. A total of 208 institutions participate in such activities as citizen science programs, professional development for educators, speaking programs, and the development of new educational tools and courses.

URI’s role is to provide guidance on programming, organize major meetings and workshops, broker partnerships, facilitate collaboration efforts among centers, and represent the network at science and education meetings around the country.

According to Scowcroft, URI was invited by the National Science Foundation to apply to lead COSEE because the Office of Marine Programs is recognized as one of the leading ocean science education and outreach organizations in the country.

“Almost all of our staff have experience as both scientists and educators, so we bring a unique perspective that allows us to build bridges between the ocean science research and education enterprises,” said Scowcroft, who has a 30 year history of conducting oceanographic research and leading education programs. “COSEE gives us a chance to make a difference at the national level and interact with some of the brightest minds around the country.”

The University of Rhode Island also receives significant benefits from hosting the COSEE office, Scowcroft said.

“It provides us with leverage to secure additional large grants due to all the other ocean science activities taking place right here on the Bay Campus,” she said. “We’ve already applied for two new $3 million grants in partnership with Dwight Coleman, director of the new Inner Space Center on campus, and there will certainly be more to come.”

For more information about COSEE, visit www.cosee.net.