Science Literacy: Fostering Resilience for the Future


By Kinsey Justa, September 12, 2019

It’s back to school for children in Cordova! The Prince William Sound Science Center is committed to building resilience within our bioregion that supports healthy ecosystems and thriving human economies. One of the ways in which we strive towards this goal is to encourage environmental stewardship and scientific literacy in our region’s youngest citizens. The education programs at PWSSC are designed to engage community members in learning more about the natural systems all around us through hands-on activities and meaningful programs.

PWSSC offers educational programs for a variety of ages during the school year through Discovery Room, National Ocean Sciences Bowl, Little Dippers, Sea Squirts, and Outreach Discovery Programs.

Education Director Lauren Bien

Lauren Bien has been the education director at the Science Center for the last four years. Much of her program development is guided by the belief that every person should have an understanding of science and access to positive experiences in the outdoors. A basic understanding of the scientific process creates knowledgeable and informed citizens and positive, outdoor experiences foster ecosystem stewardship. Hands-on learning makes a lasting impact on the children in Cordova because it helps connect them to their very own backyards. Ecosystem connections are clearly visible in Cordova whether it be through science activities in the classroom, guided tide pool explorations, or overnight trips on the Copper River Delta. With our education programs children in the community don’t just read about the geology of a glacier, they can feel the glacial silt, climb on the terminal moraine, and carefully observe how it changes the landscape over time. Incorporating the senses and interactive observations creates strong bonds between participants and their sense of place, making a lasting impact.

Credit: L. Bien

For the past 27 years, Discovery Room has been operating successfully as a partnership between PWSSC and the Cordova School District, offering students in grades 3rd through 6th hands-on science education. Recent highlights from the Discovery Room include 4th grade hands-on herring ecology lessons, 3rd grade shorebird field trips, and the exciting 6th grade camping trip.

Building on the foundations of applicable science literacy at the primary grade level, the Jr. High students transition into data collection and management. In a partnership with CSD and The Copper River Watershed Project, each student is responsible for collecting a two-year data set answering a question about Cordova’s water/weather. The National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) provides an opportunity for high school students to challenge themselves academically. NOSB is a nationwide academic competition to test student knowledge in fields related to ocean sciences. Since 2002, the education staff at PWSSC has coached the Cordova team for competition at the annual Alaska Tsunami Bowl. This high profile science competition not only encourages students to expand their knowledge of ocean sciences beyond the classroom but also serves as an opportunity for public outreach and stewardship.

Finally, PWSSC is committed to expanding science literacy beyond just the community of Cordova through Outreach Discovery. These outreach programs often integrate the same engagement and successful programs enjoyed by Cordova students for schools districts elsewhere in the state that may not necessarily have access to science-based curriculum resources. The traveling Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) program was a definite highlight of the incredible outreach efforts in 2019.


credit: L. Bien

Children and adults alike can benefit from PWSSC education programs outside of the classroom through the Tuesday Night Talk offerings, rentable Discovery Packs, Field Notes podcast and the preschool aged Sea Squirts meet-ups. All of this positive work is made possible through the creative passions of PWSSC education staff, partner organizations, funders, and the much appreciated support of the local community. Outcomes of these successful programs include a better understanding of the natural systems in our region and, hopefully, a lasting positive impact in our bioregion.

There’s something for everyone at the Prince William Sound Science Center! Find the education programs and events that fit you on our website and stay informed about upcoming camps and opportunities via our newsletter.