UMass Boston’s Coasts and Communities offers solutions to environmental problems globally: students in Croatia apply our course to their local watersheds and learn that the environment sets the limits

Students in Croatia are being introduced to the fundamental concepts in coastal environmental science in UMass Boston’s open online course, Coasts and Communities. The students are taking Coasts and Communities as part of their seminar work in Dr. Claudia Kruschel’s Biomimicry, General Biology and Marine Biology courses at the University of Zadar. In the course, students learn how to collect and evaluate data in their own local watersheds and report their findings online to solve real-world local environmental problems, including restoring the Zadar coastline. Through online discussion forums and blogs, students from all over the globe can problem-solve issues like over-development, flooding, pollution, over-fishing and access to water, in their local communities and abroad, while learning how to reduce their carbon footprint.

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Learners Explore their Local Environment and Create Virtual Field Trips to Share

Celina Kolanovic is a student at the University of Zadar who has been inspired by Coasts and Communities. “I want to become an oceanographer and help change people’s mentality about the environment,” Kolanovic explains. “I hope that I can encourage everyone to take responsibility for pollution and understand they can impact the environment, and our future, in a positive way.”

Coasts and Communities was envisioned by Dr. Anamarija Frankic in 2013 and is presently offered in the new open education/Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform by Blackboard in a free and self-paced format. The course was developed with the help of UMass Boston’s instructional design team lead by Rrezarta Hyseni. The course is open to anyone interested in coastal environments, but is best suited for high school seniors and learners with an undergraduate level understanding of environmental science. Students are introduced to a range of coastal environmental science topics by colleagues of Dr. Frankic: real-life scientists, environmental stewards, teachers and community members. Learners explore pertinent environmental science concepts through six modules:  1. The Natural History of Your Place, 2. The Human History of Your Place, 3. How Healthy and Resilient is Your Environment?, 4. Global Change and Variation, 5. How Can we Scale from Local to Global to Local?, and 6. How Can We Respond and Adapt to Changes?  Lessons consist of readings, tests and brief video lectures filmed in various locations in Massachusetts including Nantucket, Wellfleet, Boston Harbor, Cape Ann and Charles Watershed. One notable feature of the course is the “iSite” assignment where students observe nature at their local setting and monitor changes by recording them in a blog thereby providing a virtual field trip for their peers across the globe. While not currently being offered for credit, students may earn badges and a Course Completion certificate.

Equal Partnership with Local Natural and Human Communities is Critical

For the creator of Coasts and Communities, Dr. Anamarija Frankic, the course is a way to share her passion for integrating teaching, service and scholarship to address and solve local community issues. Frankic is a UMass Boston professor and Fullbright scholar, with a long history of fixing things from the bottom-up, cove-by-cove and bay-by-bay. She has worked as an ecologist at the Croatian National Park Plitvice Lakes in the late 1980s to her work in the Boston Harbor today, and many places in between. Academically, Frankic has created Biomimicry LivingLabs and floating classrooms as part of the Green Harbors Project. In the Biomimicry LivingLab students learn by identifying and solving real-life problems with experts and local communities who are all equal partners in this integrated stewardship process.

“I have learned there is no ‘one recipe’ for coastal restoration. Each place is unique, but we can share our stories and efforts around the world and learn from each other as well as from our natural coastal areas,” explains Frankic, “While the circumstances are different, the questioning process is similar: Who are the players in the local natural and human communities? What data do we have and what is missing? What used to be here? Could we find that missing information within indigenous or other local communities who already belong to this place? How do we communicate and share? Healing will not be successful if we don’t include everybody in both natural and human communities.”

The Coasts and Communities course is the latest in a long term collaboration between Dr. Claudia Kruschel of the University of Zadar and Dr. Anamarija Frankic of UMass Boston. The two partnered in March 2014 to establish the first Biomimicry LivingLabs in Zadar Harbor during Frankic’s Fullbright Scholarship at the University of Zadar. Both professors are eager to further develop the LivingLabs and coastal restoration program in Zadar Harbor into a collaborative environment with local community participation. Their next step is to design a MOOC based on Coasts and Communities that is specific to the Zadar area. They hope the MOOC will increase ocean literacy and create sustainable solutions to coastal issues. With this initiative, Frankic is a step closer to realizing her dream of the day when LivingLabs are located in every cove and bay, and where local communities are working toward a better future for themselves and the ocean.

“Don’t stop dreaming, anything is possible when you try.” ~Dr. Anamarija Frankic

Follow the link to register for Coasts and Communities