River Ecology and Marine Biology Applied Learning

Moderation state
Grant Applicant
Caroline Dezendorf / THS
School Site
Grant Category
Grant Date

River Ecology and Marine Biology are hands-on semester long classes with the goal of engaging students with the natural world. Both classes take an inquiry based approach with an emphasis on labs, student-led projects, and creating connections with the real world. The purpose of this grant request is to help bolster the curriculum by providing resources that will allow students to better engage with aquatic ecosystems. This will be my second year teaching the courses and I am rebuilding the curriculum to best fit the needs of our diverse student population. In revising the curriculum, I am in need of a lot of dissection and ecosystem testing materials that we do not have in the science department. As a biological science elective, the aim of the class is to create as much excitement as possible for students to continue their science pathways. For example, Marine Biology relies heavily on access to dissection specimens including dogfish shark, crabs, perch, sea stars, and more. River Ecology is an applied science where students walk to Donner Lake / Coldstream Canyon 2-3 days per week to collect water samples, soil samples, and collect data regarding invertebrate and fauna biodiversity. 

Benefits of Program

Marine Biology and River Ecology are elective courses open to all students. They are particularly important classes as they provide project-based and hands-on learning opportunities enabling all students to engage in the natural world. This course serves both SPED and acceleration opportunties making it a highly diverse and equitable learning envirnoment and curriculum. The goal of the courses is to provide opportunities for inquiry, including problem-solving and critical thinking skills, while creating applications to the real world. The composition of the classes are diverse and include many students who otherwise do not have access to science curriculum. Many of Truckee's students have never visited the ocean, or spent time examining the Truckee ecosystem. These courses provide an opportunity for students to understand how important conservation and resource management are in protecting aquatic ecosystems. 

Success of Program

Success of this grant is evident through student engagement in the class. In River Ecology, students perform real science through water testing, biodiversity monitoring, and soil sampling. Going out to Donner Lake to perform science experiments is a unique opportunity that will generate excitement and appreciation for their community. In addition, the dissections in Marine Biology provide a unique learning opportunity for students to engage with the ocean, even when we live 250 miles away. 


This grant will be used over the course of the 2023-24 school year. I teach 2 semesters of Marine Biology and 2 semesters of River Ecology, benefiting 4 unique classes of 30 students each. Being able to afford dissection and lab materials is imperative to the success of the classes as they provide hands-on and real-world learning opportunities for students to connect with aquatic ecosystems. River Ecology has 2 big term projects: A Water and Soil Quality Monitoring Project and a Field Guide. Having resources to help us identify the biodiversity and health of the ecosystem is so important to having a successful project. In addition, students will be collecting soil and water samples every week to be able to analyze the health of the ecosystem. Some of the tools, like the probes will allow me to monitor their progress and keep my own records by having precise data we can compare their data to. In addition, tools like the stream board will allow us to look at how abiotic factors influence and change the ecosystem. During Marine Biology, we spend the last 5 weeks of the term examining marine invertebrates and vertebrates. The best way to do this with the dissections so students can engage fully with the organisms! The dissecting microscope will be so helpful and letting me help students find different organs and tissues and for getting up close looks at different parts of the specimens!

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

Yes - if there are other Marine Biology and River Ecology teachers, we can all use the materials. In addition, some of the tools, like the microscope can benefit courses like Biology and APES. 

The grant is not fully sustainable. Dissection specimens cannot be re-used and require new purchases every year. However, some of the materials, like the stream table or microscope will be beneficial for years to come.
Amount Funded
Individual Budget Items(s)
$4164 - Carolina Supplies (total)
$700 - Flinn Scientific
Other funding sources

I have received a lot of support from the administration and the science funds to jump start this course for 2022-23. However, redesigning the curriculum is very costly and dissection materials are extremely expensive. I really aim to make this a course that students will remember forever with as much applied science as possible!

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Thank you so much for your support! Science should be as hands-on and inquiry based as possible and I could not create this curriculum without EEF!