Watson Chronicle


Programs for P-12 Students

Topsail Students Participate in Adapted Curriculum MarineQuest Program

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Harris Muhlstein welcomed Topsail Middle School students to a recent MarineQuest program at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science with a big smile and a few questions. “Have you ever been to the beach?” he asked. “Put your feet in the water and made observations, like, the water is cold and salty?” As students raised hands, nodded and answered, “Yes!” Muhlstein said, “Then, you’ve been marine scientists without even knowing it!”

Over the course of two hours, he introduced students to UNCW’s live marine vertebrate touch tank, helped them study plankton under a microscope and explore the mouth of a squid to learn that it resembles a bird’s beak.

Another lesson began with the question, “Do animals that live miles below the surface of the ocean look the same as those that live at the top? Let’s find out!” Using colored paper, multi-layered blue plastic goggles and flashlights, students soon discovered that red coloring and bioluminescence are two of the ‘superpowers’ that protect animals that live in the deepest, darkest part of the ocean.

Muhlstein holds two master’s degrees: one in marine science and another in secondary science education from the Watson College. He’s an experienced high school science teacher, master lifeguard and dive-certified instructor. As MarineQuest’s school program coordinator, he has conducted dozens of Coast-to-Classroom programs for K-12 students in the region, but a recent request from Topsail Middle School teacher Hillary Horne to provide a program for children enrolled in the Exceptional Children’s program was a first for him.

Sue Kezios, director of UNCW’s Youth Programs, said MarineQuest has always welcomed exceptional students to participate in their programs on an individual basis, but this was the first program to serve an entire school group.

Muhlstein reached out to Amy Moody, WCE associate professor of special education and director of WCE’s Assistive Technology Center, for help planning and structuring a MarineQuest program for this special audience.

“The meeting with Amy was illuminating,” Muhlstein said. “Based on our conversations I made sure to include as many visuals and other sensory stimulating materials as possible. She also helped me structure the program to keep students engaged.” Lessons that typically last 45-60 minutes were truncated to 30 minutes, he said.

Moody also arranged for students enrolled in WCE’s Adapted Curriculum Special Education program to volunteer at the event.

“WCE students Emerald Ray and Evelyn Rodriguez were crucial for the success of the program as they were able to engage one-on-one with students, keep small groups on track and re-state concepts that I may have struggled to get across,” Muhlstein said.

Moody was thrilled to help. 

“It is wonderful to work in conjunction with students and staff who are willing to collaborate in efforts to promote learning in individuals with disabilities,” she said. “This is an excellent example of how curriculum and instruction can be adapted to meet the needs of all students.”

Topsail EC teachers Hillary Horne and Lisa Spence said students had been looking forward to the MarineQuest program for several days. “They don’t have an opportunity to leave the EC classroom very often,” Horne said. “We were happy to find such a wonderful program to engage our students.”

Mulhstein said the positive experience with Topsail Middle School students will definitely lead to more opportunities for MarineQuest to collaborate with Watson College faculty on programs for special education audiences in the future. “I’m already working with a teacher from Topsail Elementary to run a similar program for 14 special education students in April,” he said.

MarineQuest offers interactive Coast-to-Classroom programs for children of all ages. The programs take place in the schools, or teachers can bring their students to UNCW’s Center for Marine Science for on-site programs.

For information visit www.uncw.edu/marinequest/schoolprograms.html.