National Ocean Sciences Bowl

Welcome NOSB Past Participants

This Alumni Community for NOSB is a vital part of its ongoing viability. Your participation is important and welcomed. We appreciate that you will be registering to participate in the longitudinal study.

Video Profiles of Four NOSB Participants(videos recorded in 2008 and 2009)
Four former students talk about their NOSB participation and the impact it has had on their careers.

January 2015 Update

For the latter part of 2014 The College of Exploration continued to track students who had participated in the NOSB looking at their college and career pathways.  In addition the new focus for the second half of 2014 was a special research study, which explored the instructional strategies for STEM teaching and learning employed by NOSB team coaches. It was interesting to understand the instructional strategies and learning methodologies used by the coaches from the perspectives of the coaches themselves but also from the perspectives of the student NOSB team members. The research also studied students’ self-directed pathways in preparing for the NOSB competition.

NOSB Alumni Student Tracking Survey

For this tracking study a survey was sent out to NOSB alumni, who had chosen to be part of the ongoing alumni database of past participants in NOSB.  Ocean Leadership staff also provided an invitation letter to new NOSB alumni, asking them to register in the database.  The College of Exploration provided ongoing database maintenance, management and update report of past participant registration details through the current project period. The survey was posted online.

From what is believed to be an active database of approximately 250 individuals, a sample of 50 responses were obtained from post-secondary and graduate students, and from a number of post-graduate respondents who are in the STEM employment fields already

Of this number, 32 were undergraduates and 18 were in graduate school.  From within this group, 17 respondents (34%) indicated that their career will ultimately include an emphasis on marine, aquatic or ocean sciences.  The respondents were asked whether NOSB preparation activities and competition in high school were of benefit in college, and 47 respondents (96%) indicated a Yes response. 

A total of 23 respondents (70%) reported that they either obtained, or were still on track to obtain, their college degrees in the area that they intended when they completed high school.  This is a significantly larger proportion of students than the average for this age of student, but may suggest that higher ability students are less likely to change academic majors.  Nevertheless, it should be considered that perhaps the response pattern here reflects a self-selection bias:  many NOSB students select into the competition because of STEM interest, which persists through college and into career selection.  And finally, it may also be possible that an overall selection bias exists for those respondents who are still interested enough in the NOSB to complete this current survey. 

As with other tracking surveys over the past fifteen years, nearly 64% of respondents indicate that they remain in communication with NOSB participants from their high school team.  This seems to indicate, as prior tracking research has concluded, that the NOSB is creating a persistent and durable social relationship among the participants that carries over into collegiate and post-collegiate life.

Respondents were asked if, and how, the NOSB competition in high school had benefitted them in college. The responses emerged in three fairly distinct clusters:  knowledge related, thinking and study skill related, and life skill related.  Example responses for the knowledge related set included:  increased content knowledge, understanding of the ocean was deeper, my first college science classes were very easy, and multiple responses about having prior understanding of the content of college science classes from NOSB study.  In the area of study skills, numerous respondents indicated that the NOSB preparation increased their self-discipline to study, their ability to study difficult materials, an ability to work on their own in independent study, and an enhanced ability to communicate in public.  The life skills area was, as with the earlier years of the tracking study, rich and encouraging.  Respondents wrote that NOSB helped them develop a network of friends who they remain connected to.  Another respondent wrote that NOSB allowed them to see other people who were also interested and passionate about science.  Others wrote that the program enhanced career interest and awareness, strengthened critical thinking skills, gave them experience in high pressure situations, and even helped them learn to think and respond quickly—a skill that helped one respondent in a job interview.

Respondents were asked to delineate the type and content area of any degree obtained, the institution from which the degree was obtained, whether the degree was in the content area they intended when they completed high school, or whether the content area had changed, and whether the degree included an emphasis in marine, ocean or aquatic sciences. 38 of the degrees reported were in the science, mathematics, or technology areas, continuing to suggest that NOSB is attracting high ability students who will frequently matriculate into STEM fields of study.  NOSB may have contributed to their education and career paths.  Among the ideas suggested from respondents were being pushed or motivated to select ocean or science related career paths, encouragement to study the ocean, and learning self-discipline in their study skills and problem solving.  Importantly, many respondents indicated the program resulted in an increase in content knowledge in ocean related science.

The simple association of the NOSB program to a robust number of high ability secondary students with an interest in STEM content areas, an ability to pursue that content at a post-secondary and graduate level, is an important and demonstrated strength of the NOSB organization.  NOSB has developed a capacity to identify, recruit, motivate, challenge, educate, and communicate with a pool of these students consistently over time.


Special Focus Research Study of Instructional Strategies and Preparation for the NOSB

As a preliminary to the special focus research study ,the evaluation team conducted an updated literature review that investigated resources on  topics such as best instructional practices for academic completions, current thinking and practices for teaching and learning science in formal settings, update on informal teaching and learning of STEM, and student directed learning. Federal reports on STEM learning were given major consideration.

A Special Focus Research Study was conducted from November 2014 through January 2015.  The topic of this research was Instructional Strategies and Team Member Learning for NOSB Competition Preparation. This research was accomplished through a survey of both NOSB coaches and a separate survey of past participant students. Through the surveys we solicited information from the coaches and their NOSB students about instruction and other formal and informal methods and avenues for enrichment and STEM learning offered by coaches or engaged in by team members in their own self-directed learning.  The Ocean Leadership NOSB team sent an email request for survey participation to coaches in their database, which include da link for the survey. The coaches in turn requested participation of their past team members through the student online survey. These surveys were particularly focused on the instructional methods used by coaches in their classrooms or in out-of-school activities to prepare the teams for the regional and/or national competitions.  This allowed triangulation of coach and student responses to increase the reliability and credibility of the findings. The data from both surveys was analyzed and synthesized and a report was compiled from the results.

A total of 81 classroom teachers who coach an NOSB school team in 24 of the regions provided responses to the survey.  Of these teachers, only one was a first year coach.  Thirty-four (42%) of respondents had coached from 2-5 years; Twenty-four (30%) of respondents had coached from 6-10 years, and twenty-two (27%) of the respondents had coached teams for more than 10 years.  Certainly, these are a highly experienced pool of coaches and classroom teachers, and their feedback to the narrative sections (the open ended response items) of the survey is based on this valuable experience. 

Of the thirty-three student responding, approximately 34% (11) of the respondents are college freshmen; 25% (8) are college sophomores; with the remaining students either high school juniors (18.75%) or seniors (21.88%).  From this group, 97% (32) of the students’ teams placed first at the regional competition, although none of the students reported placing higher than third at the national competition.  Thirty of the respondents indicate that they either are or are planning to pursue a degree in a STEM related field, with three reporting humanities fields. 

With respect to the amount of time that coaches devoted to preparing their team during the week, 90.12% (73) of the coaches used from 1-5 hours weekly; 6.17% (5) used from 6-10 hours weekly; 3.7% (3) used 10-15 hours weekly.  With respect to the amount of time the coaches used to prepare themselves to work with their respective teams each week, 93.75% of the coaches used from 1-5 hours; 3.75% (3) of the coaches used from 6-10 hours; and 2.5% (2) of the coaches invested more than 10 hours each week.

Although sample size here is small, the data move in a direction of student locus of control and engagement as more essential variables, and support at least a modest conclusion that success is not “riding on” those “super teachers” who are willing to make a complete life commitment to this single program.  86.42% (70) of the respondents indicated that their teams did prepare on their own, with 13.58% (11) of the respondents indicating that they did not.  This would support the potential for broader expansion, as more typical or average teachers may indeed find team success.

Student response data for this issue again mirrored the coach data:  63.6% of students reported 1-5 hours on their own, 27% reported 6-10 hours on their own, and 3% (one student) reported more than 11 hours alone.  The general practice seemed to be about 1-5 hours on average, with a balance between time alone, time with teams alone and about 1-5 hours on average with a teacher. 

The focus was on specific instructional strategies used by coaches with their teams.  The top three responses were sample questions, reading and textbooks, and practice quizzes.

One unanticipated observation here is the proportion of teachers using the NOSB professional development videos (41.98% of respondents).

Student response data consistently matched the patterns of the coach responses, with practice quizzing (100%), reading textbooks (96.7%), reading web pages (90.9%) and writing practice questions (90.9%) the top four preparation strategies used by the students.  And again, team challenge questions, writing sample questions, and obtaining enhanced content through lectures and reading are all reported by students as activities their teacher led—just as teachers reported. 

With regard to the leadership of their respective teams, the largest number of respondents (34.57%, 28 teachers) selected the choice, “Moderately teacher led, with some student work on their own.” The next largest response category was “balanced between teacher and student initiative” with 24.69% or 20 teachers selecting this label.

Teachers were asked to identify the primary instructional resources that they draw from or encourage when preparing their teams. Top selections were question banks, textbooks and various web pages. A set of eight enrichment activities were provided, from which teachers selected field trips and scrimmages with other teams as most common.

Interestingly, while 49% of coaches (31) reported scrimmaging with another NOSB team as an enrichment activity; 57% (19) of the students identified this as an activity.   If these scrimmage competitions are with other schools, it is likely that these scrimmages are more authentic representations of the actual competition and may, then, be powerful preparatory advantages to these teams.  Additionally, to the extent these scrimmages are with other schools, this is an additional dimension of the social network of the NOSB that has not been previously identified nor studied.

For 46% of respondents (35), the students on the NOSB team were members of a larger science or ocean science club organization.  For 26% of the respondents (22) the students were exclusively on the NOSB team as a standalone entity.  An additional 17% of respondents (14) represent NOSB teams that also competed in other academic and science competitions beyond the NOSB program.  Finally, 11% (9) of respondents taught an ocean content science course from which the NOSB team emerged during the year. 

.  Among student respondents, 40% are taking or took an ocean science related course in high school, which would have directly related to preparation for the NOSB competition.  For the high school graduates, 21% have taken or are taking a college course related to ocean science, which, while not related to NOSB preparation, may be related to other outcomes of the NOSB program or student career interest.  Finally, 42% of students (14) reported that they did participate in other high school academic competitions—most of which were science related. 

The 80 teachers responding collectively delineated 3,654 individual students received ocean science content instruction because of the NOSB team preparation activities, to include high school classes that covered the content.  This is an average of nearly 46 students per teacher, far beyond the number of students on the NOSB team itself.  Clearly, NOSB as a program has become an effective mechanism to infuse ocean science content into curriculum that reaches many more students than participate in the competitions.  Intent of this study is to enhance understanding of science teaching as it is used by these teachers, and to observe the varying results of select instructional approaches. When asked, “Some science teaching is highly inquiry driven and constructivist; other models emphasize content delivery or acquisition of factual knowledge.  How do your team preparation activities fit along or within these models?” the responses ranged from: Highly constructivist (2.63%, 2 responses) to Constructivist (2.63%, 2 responses) to Balanced (48.68%, 37 responses) to Focused on Factual Knowledge (36.84%, 28 responses) to Highly Focused on Factual Knowledge (9.21%, 7 responses). Filtering these responses for the teams placing first or second at the national competition reveals a statistically significant skewing of the response pattern (even with the small sample size of 9 teams).  These higher ranking teams’ teacher responses were highly focused on Factual Knowledge acquisition. This finding warrants further research.

Teachers approach their instructional planning for teams in a highly student-focused and driven manner.  The NOSB team is generally a voluntary commitment by students, allowing the students a greater degree of control in what they wish to do.  Teachers seem to place before the students the unique challenges of a competition program, and then allow student prior knowledge and personal learning motivations to drive the team forward for the year. 

Respondents were asked  “How does participating in the NOSB create or encourage behavioral change among students, and increased environmental stewardship that benefits the environment?”  The responses were rich, and conveyed several similar clusters of information.  First, many respondents noted the competition fostered and enhanced awareness, understanding, and knowledge of ocean and environmental content and principles that they would likely have had far less access to and appreciation for otherwise.  A second theme that was evident in the response data was that of environmental activity that was fostered through program participation. A third theme observed was that the NOSB motivated some students to continue in college with STEM related coursework and majors. 

A primary challenge faced in preparing teams for the competition was the issue of time.  The students were frequently described as highly involved, very busy, and involved in many co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.  Overlaying this, time is further constrained by systemic issues in the school systems:  standards to meet in classes, no ocean curriculum to support the time to prepare, and teachers’ schedules that are busy and increasingly so with state mandates. 

Main benefits to their students from participating in the NOSB competition were increased awareness, knowledge and understanding for ocean science content and environmental science, excitement, fun, and joy obtained by these students because of the competition nature of the program, and longer term, college and career impact of the program. Many teachers clearly understand that ocean science is by nature a cross-cutting and interdisciplinary science field, with easy opportunities to pursue topical study of ocean issues, problems, processes, and content in areas of biology, geology, physics, chemistry, and technology. .  Respondents listed biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, geology, math courses, and physical science as courses addressed in the NGSS that were excellent fits for integration and infusion of ocean content. 

Student reported benefits include enhanced study skills, increased awareness and content knowledge for science generally, time management, public speaking, and leadership skills.  Significantly, the students in this survey also noted the development of a network of peers, colleagues, and social connections through participation. An interesting question asked of the students was “what do you most enjoy about learning science?”  Among the variety of responses, three interesting clusters or patterns of responses emerged.  First, students enjoyed the encompassing nature of the scientific world-view.  Science explained everything, even though much was yet to be resolved definitively.  Second, science was possessed of wonder, of excitement, of potential.  Students found it interesting, compelling, incredible, and thought provoking.  Finally, science was essentially open-ended, with many questions and challenges ahead, and with space to accommodate them.

Summary and Conclusions

In conclusion these response data are an important window into understanding the NOSB program, its impacts on teachers, team members, and other students, and the NOSB as a means of infusing ocean sciences content into high school classrooms.  Comparing the responses of the teachers of the highest ranked teams with those of the general population of teacher respondents reveals diverse variety of successful practices in classrooms and with teams that yield success at the regional and national level.  Winning the competition is not a given based on funding, access to resources, access to buzzer equipment, teacher experience or training, or level of teacher engagement with preparation activities.  It seems that a high level of individual student motivation, student decisions to assume ownership and to commit to highly disciplined study and preparatory behaviors may make the largest difference.  Hard work, motivation, individual study, an individual commitment to success, willingness to select a topic and master it—all contribute to potential for winning.  And all of these relate to entrepreneurial values, the practice of STEM through college and in professional life.  This current research study suggests that the NOSB is making a difference for its coaches and student participants.

August 2013 Update

For the ongoing longitudinal study for NOSB for project year 2013 the College of Exploration research team’s main tasks were 1) continued longitudinal tracking of the NOSB alumni through an email survey in the spring semester, which looked at college majors, courses and career choices of NOSB student past participants and 2) a coaches’ survey to ascertain second tier effects on coaches’ schools and broader impacts of the program.

NOSB Past Participant Longitudinal Tracking Study
The study gathered past participants’ information about course selection and information about major or college and employment information for those out of college information. This study was conducted in late spring 2013.  The survey was sent to 440 past participants who were registered in an alumni database. 66 past participants responded to this survey. From the responses about major and courses the study continued to show that the NOSB as a program is connecting with students at the high school level who seem to eventually obtain STEM related college degrees and enter the STEM workforce.  As this longitudinal study has been going on for a number of years, there is a now a cohort of alumni who have moved through their academic career and into the workforce.  It is important  and gratifying to report that there is a small cohort of past participants who are willing to respond to this longitudinal study survey years after their NOSB participation. Their willingness to keep in touch attests to the value of NOSB in their lives. The report "NOSB 2013 Survey Report Past Participants" is attached here.

Special Focus Study: Coaches’ Survey to Determine Second Tier Effects
For project year 2013 TCOE conducted a special study through a coaches’ survey to explore the impact of the NOSB on a second tier of NOSB beneficiaries in the teams’ schools (other students and teachers, other classes, new courses, new after school programs etc.). We looked at how marine science curriculum had been infused by NOSB coaches in classrooms and schools across the regions nationwide-what is being infused how it is occurring, and why it is of interest and importance to the teachers. This feedback helped us gain a clearer understanding of how NOSB has helped these changes occur in schools.  This study was accomplished through an email survey to coaches in the NOSB database and it was implemented in late spring 2013.

118 coaches representing 25 regional Bowls responded to the survey. The survey solicited demographic information about the coaches’ background and courses taught , motivation to participate in NOSB, and personal and professional benefits of participation. They were asked NOSB’s impact on students and curriculum. It was clear that NOSB has impacted far more students than the team numbers represent. The coaches reported that perceptions of STEM have changed and students are more aware of marine science and the career options in the field. Coaches reported providing a myriad of ocean science career information.

The coaches described benefits to NOSB team students as a result of participation, which covered a wide array of skills, including leadership, team work, study skills, communication capability etc.  as well as increased science content. Awareness of science careers was enhanced through participation.

Respondents were asked about school adoption of ocean or marine science courses as a result of participation in NOSB. Nearly 40% of the coaches responding named specific ocean or marine science related courses that had been written and offered at their high schools that were direct outcomes of having the NOSB competition team. This highlights that a much larger body of students are receiving ocean science content directly because of NOSB and attests to the broader impact of the NOSB program. This is a key finding and an important outcome showing the broader effects of the programs to a second tier of beneficiaries.

Additionally NOSB has also supported coaches’ own understanding of science and has promoted a network among likeminded colleagues with schools in their state and across the country.
It is evident that the coaches are key stakeholders in the success of the NOSB program and are fundamental contributors to the program’s impact.

Download the full report "Summary Report on the 2013 Coaches’ Survey of NOSB Program Impact".

August 2012 Update

In the 2011-2012 project year the research study team was asked to provide a final report, detailing the history and findings from the entire longitudinal study period. This report was the focal point for the present year’s research activities and was completed in spring 2012. In addition to the longer summative report a shorter version was also created and this short report is included below.

Other 2011-2012 activities including continuation of the spring survey and career survey, which asked NOSB alumni to inform us of college and career choices. There were 98 respondents to this survey. Of the total, 42 respondents reported that they are currently in the workforce and not continuing formal education. Of those already in careers 33 are currently in clearly defined STEM professional careers.

The researchers were asked to present to select government working groups to promote NOSB and discuss the longitudinal study. The meetings occurred in December and January and the team was successful in conveying the effectiveness of the research study and the benefits of the NOSB program for its participants and stakeholders.

An examination of the database of alumni who registered to participate in the research study showed that there were currently (July 2012) 491 interested alumni. The registered alumni represented all of the regional Bowls.  This is an excellent pool of interested and enthusiastic alumni who have continued to provide solid and encouraging data about the college and career paths of young people who participate in the NOSB.

The following is a summary of the research study from 1999-2011. It provides a brief overview of the various phases of the research that have been conducted by the College of Exploration.  A longer report has been provided to COL.

NOSB Longitudinal Study 1999-2011

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl, sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, has been a successful competition for high ability secondary students implemented nationally. The NOSB is supported by U.S. federal agencies through NOPP, as well as by corporations, foundations and other non-governmental organizations.  More than 2,000 students and 400 schools now actively take part in the competition each year, with more than 18,000 students having participated in NOSB.
Methodology—Dr. Howard Walters and Dr. Tina Bishop have been contracted to study the NOSB since 1999.  The research has addressed content learning and has examined the program from a systems theory perspective, to ascertain its impact on the community of constituents, and how this competition impacts students’ career decisions.   The study incorporated complex methods including surveys, cognitive tests, interviews, focus groups, video biographies and self-authored narratives from multiple stakeholder groups.

Study Participants—A key task in this study has been the exploration of the link between the NOSB and the education and career paths of participating students as they migrated from high school into college and graduate school or the workforce.  Working with COL and its university sponsors, the researchers identified and registered a sample of 440 student participants in the research.

—The many thousands of young adults, classroom teachers, scientists and volunteers associated to the NOSB over the years have—certainly—benefitted from this involvement. These benefits are multifaceted, and some of these can be easily overlooked.  Summarizing the written reports from over the years suggests a set of clear benefits for each of the involved stakeholders, to include:
•             For past participants who entered STEM careers:  the research and evaluations have indicated that these individuals were provided meaningful support, mentoring, and career guidance by the coaches who oversaw their years of competition, and enhanced ocean science knowledge.
•             For past participants in general:  The research has been clear that all of the students who participated benefitted from leadership development, team development, and study skills support for detailed and deep science content learning. Additionally, many students reported an enhanced interest in ocean related hobbies and environmental stewardship.
•             For Coaches:  Many classroom teachers reported that working with these high ability students required them to engage in a high degree of self-directed learning in the ocean science fields, in order to prepare to engage with the students at the high content level required by the NOSB.
•             For Second Tier Students: those high school teachers that were responsible for advising and guiding the individual NOSB team from a school—reported that the regularly infused ocean sciences content into the regular course instruction for all of the other students enrolled in their classes. In addition, a number of teachers reported that they eventually created new ocean science courses in their high schools because of NOSB involvement.
•             For Scientists and Institutions: the program allowed for broader impacts work, highlighted institutional capability and education efforts, and supported student recruitment.
•             For the STEM Workforce:  by 2010 in the study process, it became clear that there were increasing numbers of past NOSB participants who had remained in the STEM pipeline and workforce.

In final analysis:  the NOSB is much more than an academic competition.  It is a social community which directly benefits multiple stakeholder groups.  As an interactive hub for these stakeholders, it provides a platform for a complex cross-section of ocean-concerned agencies and individuals, allowing each to meet multiple levels and types of goals—in the immediate context of directly supporting secondary students.  In this, it seems highly effective and beneficial, ultimately, to its host organization, the COL, to these students and their teachers, to the constellation of federal and state science agencies, and to the nation.

August 2011 Update

In the 2010-2011 project year we continued to track NOSB past participants in their college and career pathways. AS in past years we accomplished this through two email surveys, one sent in fall 2010 and one in spring 2011.  At the end of August 2011, there were nearly 500 past participants registered in the database. There was a large new group of past participants who registered in 2011 due to an increased effort by COL in reaching out to new alumni. In addition in 2011 we surveyed coaches to ascertain the second tier effect of their NOSB participation on students other than NOSB team members and on schools and curriculum.

Fall 2010 Email Survey

In keeping with procedures used over the past decade of this tracking study, the NOSB Past Participants who registered for the longitudinal study by August 31, 2010, were surveyed electronically via email from September 15 through October 15, 2010, to ascertain enrollment in post-secondary education activities related to STEM careers to include college coursework, internships or cooperative education programs (co-ops), or graduate school.  The questions for the fall 2010 survey were retained from fall 2009 and spring 2010 with respect to the expanded demographic items.  The questions these students were asked to answer pertained to their previous two semesters (summer and fall 2009) and were:

  • Which answer best describes your current educational involvement? (level)
  • What is your gender? (voluntary response only)
  • What is your ethnicity? (voluntary response only)
  • If you are a college student, mark the category (ies) that most closely describe(s) your major?
  • Have you taken courses in marine, aquatic or ocean sciences?
  • Will your career ultimately include an emphasis on marine, aquatic, or ocean sciences?
  • Have you remained in communications with NOSB team members or your high school coach?
  • If you were to identify an individual you consider to be an academic mentor, is that person: an undergraduate student, a graduate student, a professor, a parent or guardian, a former high school teacher, or other?
  • If you were to identify an individual you consider to be a career mentor, is that person: note same list as above.
  • If you are a college or graduate student, please list any courses taken in the last semester or this semester pertaining to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.


Of a total of approximately 250 active past participants remaining in the study sample, 98 past participants ultimately responded to the request for information—a survey response of 39%. All 98 provided on a voluntary basis, gender and ethnicity. 19% reported themselves to be non-Caucasian. When asked to identify their specific majors, 92% of the respondents indicated an academic field of study associated with one of the traditional STEM areas (a slight increase from 2009). Further, 37% or 36 students indicated that their future careers would include an emphasis on marine, aquatic, or ocean sciences. 

Respondents were asked to list the STEM-related coursework they were taking in the current semester or coursework they may have taken the prior summer.  Of the 65 students providing course lists, every student named a minimum of one STEM course, with increasing complexity of courses observed as the students move beyond core requirements toward major specific or graduate coursework.   As with earlier surveys, these respondents indicated that the largest proportion, 57% of the 98 who responded to the item, had taken a course or courses in marine, aquatic, or ocean sciences.

 In summary, as with previous semester surveys of the past participants, these respondents are overwhelmingly enrolled in STEM related degree programs, either post-secondary or graduate level. As in previous survey reports, many of the students continue to indicate a future career involvement in marine, ocean, or aquatic sciences and are listing courses that pertain to these majors or minors.

The past participants were also asked to describe their experiences and perceptions of the NOSB program.  The first item was “Tell us how the NOSB helped you understand your career and college interests better.”  One important theme that emerged from this narrative, which was observed in earlier NOSB studies, is the way in which NOSB helped these individuals become overall better students through heightened study skills. 

Some select quotes about the NOSB impact on the past participants included:

  • The contacts I made were wonderful and I still have many friends from some of the people I met through NOSB.  I picked my college because of NOSB.
  • NOSB has helped me by influencing me into a budding career in the marine sciences.  The studying I’ve done for NOSB is similar to the way I study in college.
  • Just showed me that hard work could and does pay off.  I still remember everything I learned there.  Also—it showed me a new way to study. 
  • Enjoyed studying for the competition so much that it solidified my choice of marine biology as a major that I wanted to pursue.

  A group of 27 past participants were identified based on their responses to prior surveys as having graduated from college or graduate school, ceased formal education (at least temporarily) and having entered the workforce.  These individuals were invited to respond to an additional, brief employment survey, and 15 chose to provide responses.  Of this group, 9 or 60% indicated that they were employed directly in a field that was related to ocean or marine sciences.  The respondents were further asked to provide a basic description of their job duties or responsibilities and they were then asked to provide a description of longer term career aspirations.  Of the approximately 27 college completers who “reported out” of formal education this past spring, 15 past participants now provide clear evidence of employment—and a strong cohort of STEM-employed former NOSB students. It will be important to continue to monitor movement into the workforce of these NOSB past participants and to consider in-depth case studies of these past participants.

Spring 2011 Email Survey
The NOSB past participants who registered for the database from 2006 through 2010  were asked in spring 2011 to answer questions, which pertained to their last two semesters including:

  • Which answer best describes your current educational involvement? (level)
  • If you are a college student, mark the category(ies) that most closely describe(s) your major (these are delineated later in this report)?
  • Have you taken courses in marine, aquatic or ocean sciences?
  • Will your career ultimately include an emphasis on marine, aquatic, or ocean sciences?
  • Have you remained in communications with NOSB team members or your high school coach?
  • If you are a college or graduate student, please list any courses taken in the last semester or this semester pertaining to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

Based on interest from the COL education leadership for NOSB, two new questions were added to the spring 2011 survey:  1) Have you returned to the NOSB Regional Competition to serve as a volunteer, and if so, which one? And, 2) Did you find your NOSB preparation activities and competition in high school benefitted you in college in some way?

A total of 90 past participants ultimately responded to the request for information—a survey response of 36%.  An important note is that an enhanced survey item was added to the end of this current survey to solicit interest from among college graduates who are already in the STEM workforce for a potential follow-up case study.  Thirty-three college graduates, now in the STEM workforce, have provided complete contact information and a statement of interest/volunteering for potential future in depth analysis.

For those students currently enrolled in college, 33% (28 individuals) are pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences; an additional 26% (22) are pursuing degrees in physical sciences or engineering; 6% (5) are pursuing degrees in chemistry or biochemistry; 7% (6) are in pre-medicine; and 3% (3) are pursuing degrees in mathematics.  While it is problematic, at the least, to link the NOSB causally to the decisions of these students to continue to formally study science, it is nevertheless evidence that NOSB—at the point these young people were in high school—has developed a recruitment strategy that engages a population that is interested in science and does influence them in measurable ways at that point.

The past participants currently enrolled in college were asked to specify the general category of their major or degree area, and to identify specific courses which they had completed in the immediate past semester. The specific STEM related courses, which the students report from their college or graduate school transcripts during the previous semester, are correlated with the degrees and majors that they report. 53% of the students have taken or are taking courses in marine, aquatic or ocean sciences. 86% of the past participants are currently in contact with former NOSB team members or their high school coach.
For college graduates the researchers solicited identification of degrees completed and universities attended. 36% (16 individuals) obtained degrees with emphasis in marine, aquatic or ocean sciences. The list of universities provided by the respondent graduates contained a significant number of COL partnering institutions.

Additional information regarding current employment, again for those individuals who are post-formal education was requested.  Of the 42 respondents 19 individuals stated an occupation or place of employment that is clearly a STEM related occupation.  These included work on a NOAA research vessel, various state or federal conservation, wildlife, or science related agencies, bench laboratory work, medicine, and research geology for a petroleum corporation.  Additionally these respondents were asked to more specifically describe the nature of their occupations and, again, their responses were consistent with their education backgrounds, degree areas/obtained, stated occupations or employers. 

Select responses to this item included:

  • I run professional development workshops for science-based professionals, helping them improve their communication skills when dealing with the general public. 
  • I work with microbial loop grazing experiments with fluorescent and radioactive bacteria fed to heterotrophic nanoflagellates.  My career goal is to continue to be employed in the marine sciences.
  • Laboratory research primarily in mouse retina systems.  PhD in 3 years, then either post doc work or a med school for opthamology.
  • Currently I do animal research in collaboration with the pediatrics department to study the same disease.  I will be attending graduate school for public health and hope to work to improve health for communities across the globe.
  • I study the seasonal hypoxic zone off the Oregon coast, using an ROV to observe invertebrate communities.

Respondents were asked to delineate or describe the ways in which participation in NOSB in high school may have prepared them for college.  Content analysis applied to the lengthy and rich responses to this item reveals a set of 5 themes or clusters around which many of the responses focused.  These clusters are:

  1. Participation in NOSB enhanced my science content knowledge.
  2. Participation in NOSB prepared me for success in college.
  3. Participation in NOSB exposed me to career information and helped guide career choices.
  4. Participation in NOSB taught me to work effectively on a team to solve problems.
  5. Participation in NOSB enhanced my study skills.

A final extended response item on the survey solicited an overall, reflective analysis of how NOSB has contributed overall to the individuals’ education and career paths.  The answers were rich, and encompassed all of the five clusters or themes of responses in the question specific to college preparation reported above.    Select and typical responses included:

  • NOSB was my first experience in extracurricular learning. I developed curiosity, a little discipline, and most of all, the knowledge that there is always an answer out there and the determination and skills to find it. These skills have helped me to become very good at scientific bench work. They also were the driving force to take classes part time while working, and to get into medical school.
  • My participation in NOSB made me realize a love for science and teamwork that I’d never used before.  My major was a science-based degree and my minor was in Oceanography based on my enjoyment of learning about marine-related topics.
  • I was always tempted to take a class in marine sciences or pursue it further but I ended up not doing so.  It contributed to my great appreciation for the natural world and to an interest in environmental law and science.  I work on an environmental law journal and do some environmental law work in my career.
  • The National Ocean Sciences Bowl was my first exposure to marine science.  Previous to my participation, I had no particular interest in the subject.  In fact, I was certain I would hate it.  After participating, I began considering a career in marine science.  NOSB changed my life by introducing me to the passion that now drives my career.

It seems clear, from the responses of students still in college or graduate school, and from the responses of those past participants who are now in their careers, that they have a perception of NOSB as a highly positive contribution to their background and content knowledge, to the study and life skills that they have acquired and utilize, and to specific cognitive and social tasks required for successful engagement in higher education.  Many of these 90 individuals who have responded to this call for input to the NOSB program have continued in the STEM pipeline.  Whether this is because of the NOSB or whether they joined NOSB because of other compelling motivations in this direction, regardless: NOSB was an important touch point in their developmental years.  NOSB continues, though long after they have ceased formal engagement (except for those who have continued to volunteer at the regional level), to serve as a key social community for the largest majority of these respondents—as evidenced by the substantive number of those who continue to interact with former team members and teachers.  It also seems clear that NOSB was an important element in the communication of career information for many of these individuals, whether they ultimately selected from among the ocean, marine, or aquatic fields, or even from the broader STEM areas. 

Given these observations, the researchers perceive that an opportunity exists to more deeply explore the developmental contributions to the subset of these respondents who have been tracked from high school participation, through college and graduate school, and now into the STEM workforce. 

Coaches Survey of Second Tier Effects
In 2011, the research team and the NOSB administration determined that it would be beneficial to reengage the high school teachers/NOSB coaches during late spring and summer 2011 to gather information regarding the impact of the NOSB program on participants, and importantly, the impact of the NOSB program at the second tier level on other students within participating high schools across the country. Through this survey we hoped to learn how the process of NOSB participation had extended beyond the few team members, with broader infusion into schools, benefitting greater numbers of students and teachers.   In this vein, a survey was constructed utilizing the previous 2003 impact study coach survey, infusing information gained over the last decade about the NOSB program from the follow-up tracking.  This new instrument was disseminated by the COL staff directly, through the regional coordinator structure, to the high school coaches nationally. 

A strongly representative sample of 109 high school teachers, comprising 109 different high schools and teams participated in this study, providing detailed demographic and extended narrative feedback to the response items. The teachers who responded to the survey were distributed across 23 states and the District of Columbia, with 38% reporting that they teach some type of marine, ocean or aquatic science courses in their schools, ranging from marine biology, introduction to oceanography, marine ecology, marine science, and aquatic biology.

One key element of this survey was to identify the increased spread of ocean and marine education to the broader student body in the schools beyond the 5 students generally attached to the school NOSB team.  The teachers Strongly Agreed (29 or 27%) or Agreed (46 or 43%) that participating as a coach of an NOSB team has resulted in an increase in the infusion of ocean sciences in their classrooms.  Only 10 individuals Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed with this statement.
These responses suggested that the NOSB program, through the efforts of the coaches, is resulting in enhanced ocean and marine education opportunities for a substantively larger group of secondary students than is accounted for simply by counting the NOSB direct participants. 

A related item asked teachers whether participation in NOSB increased students’ interest in science generally.  For this item, 87 or 80% of the respondents Strongly Agreed or Agreed that this had in fact occurred.  Additionally, 54 or 51% of responding teachers indicated that because of the NOSB program in their school, marine science has been emphasized more as an academic discipline within the school curriculum.  Finally, the teachers were asked—beyond the NOSB team—how many individual students had been engaged with ocean or marine content because the school houses an NOSB team.  Only 34 or 31% of teachers indicated no additional students, suggesting that for nearly 70% of schools housing an NOSB team, additional, uncounted students were engaged in these content areas. 

A third theme or cluster of responses that emerged was that NOSB had resulted in formal changes to the curriculum in the school, either with units or project-based instructional modules added to other courses, or with new courses created. 
A further extended response item asked teachers whether their school had adopted an ocean sciences or marine-related course as a result of participation in NOSB, and to describe or discuss any such courses.  Of the 90 responses, 19 or 21% indicated that their school and/or district had in fact created or adopted/offered new course(s) in aquatic, marine or ocean sciences at the high school level directly because of the NOSB competition/team.
The teachers were asked to describe how their participating in the NOSB program had influenced their own professional development activities. The first theme to emerge was that NOSB had provided connections or opportunities for these coaches to engage with numerous regional and national education opportunities in the ocean and science communities. The second theme that emerged from this set of responses was that NOSB had encouraged directly or indirectly these teachers to continue their formal education in marine, ocean, and/or aquatic education through advanced degrees or coursework.  The third theme that emerged from the teacher responses to this item is that NOSB is a strong motivator for these teachers to engage in self-directed, informal and non-formal learning about science and the oceans. 

The first career question asked teachers if they had provided college and career information to their NOSB students, and the second, follow-up question asked the teachers specifically “what career information related to ocean sciences have you provided to student NOSB participants, and what was the source of that information?”  Of the 95 responses to these items, only 13 or 14% of this total had not provided college and career-path information to the students

In the follow-up career question, teachers were queried to describe the primary sources of the career information they are using.  Beyond the ubiquity of the web, several other clusters of information emerge.  Select teacher responses that illustrate three sources of information that has been a focus for most of these 92 respondents.  First, a number of universities clearly use the NOSB regional partnerships and programs to provide recruitment information to these high ability students. A second source of information related to careers that has been provided to the students is associated to the materials located on the NOSB web site. 

Following the career questions, teachers were asked “what academic and/or life skills do students acquire as a result of participating in the NOSB?”  Four sets of skills emerged from their responses: Team Related Skills, Personal Academic Related Skills, Personal Social and Personality Constructs, and Professional and Work Place skills. 

From this data the researchers find compelling evidence that the NOSB has reached well beyond the few thousand students who directly participate regionally and nationally, and the few hundred teachers who coach them.  Because of NOSB programs at local high schools across the country, many thousands and potentially tens of thousands of students have received an enhanced exposure to ocean education at the second-tier (non-funded) level.  This second-tier should appropriately be considered as a leveraging and expansion of the impact of the funding used by COL to implement NOSB at its primary level.


Previous Yearly Reports

We thank all of you who have registered to be part of this study and of the ongoing NOSB community! We are also grateful to those of you who filled in our survey and who have kept us apprised of your current courses and majors in your university program.

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