Since the fall of 1992, the Discovery Room has been a rewarding and exciting place where students from Mt. Eccles Elementary School learn about natural and physical science and the environment. Designed as a supplemental science education program for elementary students, the Discovery Room is a partnership between the Prince William Sound Science Center, Copper River Watershed Project and Cordova City School District. Previous partners include U.S. Forest Service Cordova Ranger District and Prince William Sound Community College. Throughout the year, students participate in Discovery Room for hours of fun, hands-on science instruction. During our time together, students explore and study the local environment and local organisms for a deeper understanding of how we are all connected.
Each year, Science Center educators guide more than 100 students in Cordova’s 4th-8th grade classrooms through theme-based curricula that use local ecosystems as a natural learning laboratory. Using scientific instruments, students learn to observe, record and interpret data, and present what they have learned. Across all grade levels, students learn about the scientific process and data management, develop observation skills, engage in peer- to-peer teaching, and contribute to long-term data sets. For example, in 2016, fourth-graders explored food web dynamics in our marine habitat and the role Pacific herring play in the ecosystem, while fifth-graders focused on salmon ecology, biology, economics, and the cultural importance of salmon. Sixth- graders designed, built, and tested remotely operated vehicles and responded to a mock oil spill, while seventh- and eighth- graders collected environmental data at marine, estuarine, and freshwater sites during monthly field trips.