Lake Champlain Sea Grant Leads First Year of National Sea Grant Education Exchange

By Anna Marchessault
January 04, 2024

Lake Champlain Sea Grant is one of 34 Sea Grant programs across the United States and its territories. While each program is different, this network is a great resource to lean on for support and creative problem-solving.

“This project has provided a critical opportunity for Sea Grant Educators to leverage the quality programs happening at other programs as professional learning opportunities. Due to the unique nature of the work Sea Grant Educators do, learning from one another and growing together as a peer-network is essential in building organizational excellence across NOAA Sea Grant Programs.” 

This past year, Lake Champlain Sea Grant education coordinator Ashley Eaton collaborated with Lyndsey Manzo from Ohio Sea Grant, Tracy Crews from Oregon Sea Grant, Maile Sullivan from Washington Sea Grant, Tina Miller-Way from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Kanesa Seraphin and Ana Rosa from Hawaii Sea Grant, Grace Simpkins from Woods Hole Sea Grant and Linda Chilton from University of Southern California Sea Grant to pursue funding for a Sea Grant educator exchange program. This initiative was grounded in a recommendation from the 10-Year NOAA Sea Grant Environmental Literacy Vision (2019) to support specialist exchanges to learn more about other state programs including how they function, the types of education/extension programs they offer, how they reach priority groups, and how colleagues peers plan, implement, and evaluate programs. The working group received funding from National Sea Grant to support workshops and professional development. 

This year, eight educators from across the network were awarded exchanges. The applicants were reviewed by a selection committee, which assessed programmatic connections and applicants’ goals for participating in the exchange program. Recipients spanned a broad geographic reach and represented a wide range of professional experience from early career educators to senior personnel. All recipients traveled to and participated in a Sea Grant-supported program that is advancing environmental literacy and/or workforce development. This program was piloted by Lake Champlain Sea Grant Watershed and Lake Education Program Specialist Caroline McKelvey’s 2022 visit to Ohio Sea Grant’s Water and Wildlife Training for Educators. 

“This was a phenomenal opportunity to shadow and learn from other Sea Grant education specialists” shared McKelvey. “I have used the curriculum ideas I gathered from my time in Ohio to supplement our program in Vermont.”

The selected educators coordinated visits with their host Sea Grant program. They participated in education programs hosted by Hawaii Sea Grant, Oregon Sea Grant, Woods Hole Sea Grant, and Louisiana Sea Grant.  Programs ranged from day programs for middle school students, residential fellowship programs for female high school students, public outreach events. Additionally, they were able to tour others’ facilities and learn about their host program’s education initiatives.

“I learned so much while I was in Oregon” shared Hawaii Sea Grant educator, Brooke Cleveland. “I was very impressed with their work and the way they build up the community. The activities for kids of all ages are fun, hands-on, engaging, and jam-packed full of learning and art. I have so many positive things to say about their program.”

The educators who participated in this program were all able to take new knowledge back to their home Sea Grant program after their visit and some have begun integrating these experiences into their own education programs already. For example, Tina Miller-Way, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant visited Woods Hole and participated in their Fellowship Program for female high school students interested in STEM.  These students learned about the technologies needed to conduct coastal and ocean research today, including building hydrophones and learning to interpret spectrograms.  Tina will guide students in the building and use of hydrophones in the MS-AL Sea Grant supported marine tech program this summer.

“I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Sea Grant Education Network Educator Exchange. The learning experiences of the week have given me several ideas that I have taken home with me to Ohio and have already begun to implement” shared Jill Bartolotta, extension educator with Ohio Sea Grant. “Even though Ohio and Hawai’i are on opposite sides of the world, they experience different but also similar coastal issues, and have saltwater versus freshwater, we were able to come together to share our passion for education in the most uniquely perfect way. I thank National Sea Grant for supporting this program, Lake Champlain Sea Grant for facilitating, and Hawai’i Sea Grant for hosting me.”

These peer exchanges not only support Sea Grant programming, but also helps Sea Grant and partners work collaboratively to address the increasing challenges that transcend watershed and state boundaries and increase our overall impact. Another cohort of Sea Grant educators will get the opportunity to participate in this exchange next year. We look forward to integrating this into other areas of our work in the future and continuing to work with our many partners throughout the country.

If you’re interested in learning more or applying for next year’s exchange, send us a message at seagrant [at]