A program of the Lawrence Hall of Science that seeks to increase ocean literacy through informal and formal education initiatives
Marine Activities, Resources & Education

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COSIA Sessions

There are 10 content sessions in the COSIA course. 

Session 1: Introduction to Communicating Ocean Sciences.

COSIA students


The introductory session of the course begins with participants sharing and discussing their ideas about learning and where learning takes place. The participants then experience different inquiry-based, hands-on activities, as examples of the kinds of activities they will present on the floor of the informal science setting later in the course. A short presentation on what constitutes “learning in informal environments” provides the participants with a context for the next 10–15 weeks of the course and presents an overview of learning in informal science education institutions (ISEI) and their important role in helping people learn science content and practices. The goals, syllabus and requirements of the course are reviewed. The rationale for teaching ocean science, including its interdisciplinary nature, is discussed with an overview of the science content that will be covered in the course, kicked-off by an introduction to ocean biomes. The session concludes with a discussion about the homework.

Session 2: Nature and Practices of Science


This session is the second Foundation session. This session immerses participants in activities and discussions about what is science and how scientific knowledge is produced. Science is a way of knowing and attempting to explain phenomena and to understand the world around us. It’s seen as a social enterprise that advances scientific understanding over time. Science is both a body of knowledge that represents current understanding of natural systems and a process through which that body of knowledge has been established and is being continually extended, refined, and revised. Participants will be challenged to consider a variety of questions, such as: Just what is encompassed by the nature and practice of science? Is there agreement as to what constitutes the “ideas about science” and what should be taught? Is science objective reality or socially constructed? What is the relationship between culture and science? How does understanding and reflecting on the nature of science influence our practice? How can we as scientists and educators help others, including students and the public, to have a better understanding of the nature of science and why might that be important?

Session 3: How Learning Happens


This is the third Foundation session. This session probes deeper into how learning happens. The focus is on how learners construct an understanding of the world around them through experiences, social interactions, and making connections with their prior knowledge. Participants do an activity that offers them a shared experience upon which to reflect on the role of prior knowledge, social interactions and the use of models in their personal experience as a learner, by doing an activity that places them in the role of the learner. Participants consider the four foundational ideas on learning, and discuss the implications of the research on how to support learning as they present and design their activities.

Session 4: Teaching and Learning


This is the first of the Designing to Support Learning sessions where participants consider how to design experiences to support learning. Participants access their prior knowledge about the relationship between teaching and learning by thinking about and experiencing how the design of different activities affects them as learners. Participants rotate through four activity stations focused on salinity and density that illustrate different designs. They discuss the affordances and limitations of each design, and how the design of each individual activity and also the sequence of their rotation through the activities affected their interest and conceptual understanding. The Learning Cycle is introduced as an instructional model to guide participants’ thinking about how to design activities and learning experiences to support learning. Participants apply their understanding of the Learning Cycle by designing an activity about sand and/or planning their own activity.

Session 5: Designing an Activity


This is the second of two the Designing to Support Learning sessions where participants think critically about designing learning experiences. In this session, participants focus on applying some of the insights and understandings they’ve gained in the course so far to the development of their activity with their partner. Participants are guided in the development of their designed activity using a COSIA Activity Design Starter, in an environment of support from their peers and instructors. This activity and design template helps them understand the complexity of designing activities to effectively address a science concept. They are guided to incorporate the pedagogy presented in previous sessions, including the learning cycle and effective teaching approaches, while designing their activity, to help learners come to some level of understanding of a science concept.

Session 6: Conversations & Questions


This session is one of four Apply and Refine sessions. The focus of this session is on conversations and questions, and the key role they play in supporting learning and meaning making of ideas and concepts for learners. Conversation can be a window into learners’ prior knowledge, skill-level, personality, previous experience, and ability to articulate ideas. Three patterns of talk are introduced through role-plays that depict typical interactions between educators and learners, followed by discussions about the impact on learners when an educator sees his/her role as either ”sage on the stage” or “guide on the side.” Participants then discuss how they may influence the types of conversations they have with their learners through the questions they ask and how they follow up on those questions.

Session 7: Objects in Teaching


This session is one of four Apply and Refine sessions, which can be done in any order. In this session, participants examine the use of objects in learning experiences in informal environments, and think about the role of the objects in conversations and interactions. Participants explore how different types of objects that are commonly found in informal environments can be used to support learning. They are challenged to use the “Characteristics of Exemplar Activities and Facilitation” they have been developing in class, and then create and implement an activity or program to teach one idea using four types of objects. This activity provides them with a common experience to think about and compare the talking and doing that may occur with different types of objects.

Session 8: Creating an Inclusive Environment


This session is one of four Apply and Refine sessions. In this session, participants consider diversity in learning environments and how to address the needs of all learners. The focus is to build knowledge about the relationship between language, culture, and science in order to create more inclusive science education environments. Issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion are in the forefront of the national consciousness and have become an integral part of the planning and programming at most informal science education institutions. This session gets participants thinking about issues of inclusion by considering what kinds of differences exist between people and gaining a sense of other perspectives.

Session 9: Inquiry


This session is one of four Apply and Refine sessions. It introduces and provides an overview of inquiry in informal environments. Participants conduct an investigation, then observe visitors and facilitators interacting as they engage in an inquiry on the museum floor. The second part of this session focuses on how educators can build upon learners’ diverse responses to questions to engage them in learning through discussions and offers practical discussion-leading strategies.

Session 10: Assessment


This Review & Feedback session serves two purposes. First, participants have the chance to observe their peers’ near-final activity, and learn how to review and provide critical and substantive feedback to colleagues. Second, participants learn about how they will be graded by the instructors for the final presentation and paper. Participants revisit the major ideas from the course, as a means to identify the key elements of the assessment tool. Participants are introduced to the assessment tool – an observation instrument, which participants will then use to observe their peers present their activity to the public. Instructors of the course may also consider using this observation instrument to assess how participants communicate their scientific knowledge to the public and thus apply their understanding of the key concepts in this course.

Other Optional Session Components

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