Laura Good is the Education Manager for the Center for Ocean Solutions. She leads the Monterey Area Research Institutions' Network for Education. (MARINE) Laura has led an impressive career in educating people of all ages inside and outside of the classroom. She has worked with camps, museums and aquariums to study informal learning settings where the general public can take the reins on their environmental education. She is also a firm believer that education spreads far beyond school. Committed to making herself a lifelong learner, Laura treats each day as a series of teachable moments.
Laura received her MS in marine resource management and PhD in science education from Oregon State University. She specializes in free choice learning, where the learner has choice and control over learning experiences they engage in, often associated with out-of-school learning. At Hatfield Marine Science Center, she worked as an educational research assistant. There she helped design exhibits and studied how people learn in museum settings. She was also an educational evaluator for COSEE Pacific Partnerships where she examined how adult volunteers were trained to communicate science and impart knowledge onto audiences at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Oregon Coastal Master Naturalist program. In addition, she has also developed a variety of K-12, after-school, and day camp curriculum in ocean science.
When did you know you were an educator?
I did my undergrad in ocean science, but I found science research a bit tedious. The end of my second year, I joined a camp America program. I loved the outdoors, and it was something about being with kids and their ridiculous enthusiasm for everything that made me realize I wanted to be an educator. I felt more like myself in that role. I knew that I wasn’t really interested in doing science research; I was interested in talking to people about science. The reason I love education so much is because it’s not about me. It’s about empowering others. It’s making sense of how people make sense of the world.
What do you think your role as an educator is?
I think it’s my role to expose people to a variety of different opportunities and ideas so that they can make choices for themselves. As an educator, I don’t think it’s my role to tell people how to live their lives. Of course I want people to be motivated to protect the environment, but it’s up to them to decide what role they play in that.
Laura got her start in education as a camp leader for youth education.
Why work on improving higher education experiences when graduate students are already committed to learning?
It’s a fallacy to think “you’ve already got them.” School isn’t the end point; it is sometimes the start of these journeys. They’re trying to make their way in the world and graduate school has a heavy influence on their career choices. Because not everybody is well suited to academic jobs, you don’t necessarily have them in a single discipline for life. If you want it to inspire them to be part of a larger problem solving conversation, you have to help them connect their personal interest to their professional interests. That’s what ultimately makes them happy in their work.
What is the value of having graduate students take courses at different educational institutions through the passport project?
In our Education and Leadership Development work at the Center, the passport project is MARINE’s effort to illuminate and increase access to the variety of special agreements between MARINE’s partner institutions that allow students to take courses at each other’s’ campuses, without paying additional tuition. Each partner campus has strengths in different areas of ocean research. Passport is meant to encourage students to take advantage of those resources around the region, and network with folks from other ocean disciplines. We also now craft multi campus courses that make use of the passport connections. The more graduate students are exposed to different ways of thinking, the better they’re able to envision that bigger picture of what they’re working within. The passport program is an example of an interdisciplinary education opportunity. It’s very easy in grad school to put your head down and never look up to learn the cultures or the ideas of other disciplines, even those similar to our own. It’s good for the students to realize there’s institutional culture and how that may be playing into what they’re picking and choosing in their professional interests. If you’re able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, you’ll be able to listen to their ideas, and you’ll better understand where certain expectations, research, and decisions come from.
Are there any particularly memorable moments from MARINE work?
One of the things I strive for with the MARINE activities is ah-ha moments. A lot of that comes out of our workshops and courses. In the past year, I was most proud of the ocean policy course. It was hard work putting that course together, but to watch those students really start to feel empowered about a system that was seemingly a tough one to work in was really inspiring. We’ve also recently moved to having our student liaisons organize more of our main program events because they have their finger on the pulse of what people want to hear about. Three liaisons organized the women in ocean careers panel. There was something wonderful about watching people being empowered by what they were hearing, and realizing there are resources to tackle these problems.
What makes someone an ocean leader?
Leadership is defined by the learner. You could define it is as someone who manages their work in a way that leads something forward. Leadership is going to look different depending on what they’re interested in doing as a career. At MARINE, they’re encouraged to be the best they can be, but also to think of what kind of leader they want to be. It’s really up to them. I don’t think you need to be “in charge” of a lot to be impactful. I think it’s more that you’re trying to move new thinking forward. I don’t want to encourage this idea that you can only take on a leadership role if you’re aiming really high like a president or CEO or director of NOAA. That’s awesome, but you can also do fantastic work at lower managerial positions.
What would you do to improve ocean literacy?
The immediate response is to improve the ocean conversation at the K-12 level, the idea being that if you catch them early then the interests will persevere. But, in reality, I think it’s more allowing people to develop personal relationships with the ocean. That’s a big deal in a country as big as this where if you live in Des Moines, Iowa you may have never even seen the ocean. It’s about helping people consider how they impact the ocean and how the ocean impacts them.
What do you do when you’re not working?
There’s a part of me that’s really indoorsy and wants to watch movies all day, but I also love the outdoors. I’m a huge nerd. I’m obsessed with Star Wars to a rather bizarre level. I loved the new movie; it was back to its origins. I love kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming. Luna (my rescue dog) is also my hobby. She’s a lively dog, so she takes a lot of attention.
Laura and her rescue dog, Luna.
If you could be anywhere where would you be?
I would be in the warm weather, on the beach. If I could have this job be in a hot place with the roof off, I think I would be good.
What advice do you have for the world?
Be mindful of all the different learning opportunities you’ve had in your life and how that plays into what you think today. Learning from many perspectives has become very institutionalized, and can even be a scary word for some people. Take ownership of your learning. If you don’t like the way someone is trying to teach or mentor you, be vocal about it because you won’t get your learning needs met unless you make noise.