NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Savannah
May 23 – 31, 2012
Hello from Hillside, New Jersey! First, for any out-of-state readers, allow me to say that despite what you may have seen on “reality” television about this beautiful state, we do not all tease our hair and have VIP memberships to tanning salons. (Okay, so I may tease it a little, but only for special occasions! Yes, this is my attempt at humor; bear with me.) All kidding aside, thank you for visiting. I am excited to tell you about the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program!
Perhaps I should introduce myself before I start making corny jokes. I am Kristy Weaver and I am happy to say I have been a first grade teacher here at The A. P. Morris Early Childhood Center for the past 12 years. Our building is home to every pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade classroom in the district, and we are currently a community of 668 students.
Hillside is part of the Partnership for Systemic Change which is a collaboration between the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) and six other urban or semi-urban school districts. Through this partnership I have been a part of the Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction, which is an intensive staff development series that takes place over the course of three years. I have also been a Peer Teacher Workshop facilitator and have had the opportunity to discuss effective science instruction at length with my fellow science teachers and professionals from MISE and partner districts.
Here is a little video trailer my class helped make to tell everyone about my trip. See if you can spot the cameo appearance from our beloved class pet, Jerry. My students had the responsibility of casting him in this role and are all super excited that Jerry will now be “famous.”
The purpose of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is to provide teachers with real life experiences with scientific research and for us to then share that knowledge with the community upon our return. This will strengthen my own content knowledge and expose our students to scientific research and science careers while increasing environmental awareness. I am passionate about the pedagogy behind effective science instruction and while I hope that this experience will be shared with many classes, it will definitely be utilized to its fullest potential in my district. This opportunity already inspired an impromptu math lesson when I showed my class my ship, the R/V Savannah. In order to grasp how big the 92 foot vessel is, we used 60 inch measuring tapes and counted by fives until we got to 90 feet. Then we estimated two feet to help us get a sense of the size of the R/V Savannah.
I love being a teacher, and it is definitely where my passion lies. However, when I was a child I never felt that being a scientist was an option for me because I didn’t know where to begin. I had an innate curiosity about the water, but didn’t know that I could have built a career around it. It’s my job to make sure that my students are afforded every opportunity, know that their dreams are within their reach, and feel as if the world is at their fingertips- because it is!
How Did I Hear About Teacher at Sea?
Two years ago I attended the National Science Teachers Association Convention in Philadelphia, PA. One of the booths at the exhibition center was for NOAA‘s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea Program. It was fascinating to talk with teachers who had gone out to sea with NOAA in the past, and I immediately knew it was something I would pursue. My whole life I had lived vicariously through scientists on various nature shows, and I was thrilled to learn that I even had the possibility to experience something like this first hand.
What the Research Says
So how is this going to help first graders? In 2011 Microsoft Corp. commissioned two national surveys with Harris Interactive for parent and student opinions on how to motivate the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professionals.
For most, the decision to study STEM started before college.
- Nearly four in five STEM college students said they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier (78 percent). One in five (21 percent) decided in middle school or earlier.
- More than half (57 percent) of STEM college students said that before going to college, a teacher or class got them interested in STEM.
This gives me, a first grade teacher, the opportunity to plant the seed early and expose children to STEM careers before they even reach the second grade. If I can motivate just one child with this experience, or prove to them that they too should chase their dreams, then any amount of seasickness will be worthwhile.
Speaking of Motivation…Here is Mine:
I have always been fascinated by the ocean and how something could be equally tranquil and ferocious. As a child I never “sat still” and my boundless energy had me bouncing from one activity to the next with less than a heart beat in-between. Yet, even as early as three years old, I can remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap in Long Beach Island and just staring out at the water for what seemed like hours. In retrospect it may have only been 15 minutes, but regardless, just looking at the ocean had me calm, captivated, and thoroughly entertained in the silence of my own thoughts.
When I was young I always loved the underwater pieces in my parents’ National Geographic magazines, but it never crossed my mind that I could someday be a diver. When I grew up a little I decided that it was something I would definitely do “someday.” I finally realized that someday never comes unless you make your “someday” today. I became a certified diver three years ago, and up until this point, it is one of the best things I have ever done. As an adult, I have always watched nature shows, but never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would someday have the opportunity to experience something like Teacher at Sea. I think this helps send an important message to my students: You should always go out and experience everything you want in life. I did a shipwreck dive to 109 feet, have fed sea turtles, swam with sharks, flew a helicopter, , and have been on a trapeze in two different countries. Yet somehow, I have a feeling that all of these things will pale in comparison to the adventure I am about to have.
So What’s Next?
I am getting ready to head out to sea and my students and I are so excited. The next time I write I will most likely be somewhere near Savannah, GA where I will be setting sail on the R/V Savannah for an 8 day reef fish survey. While the first grade students are my target audience for my blogs while I am at sea, I encourage people of all ages to follow me along my journey. I hope that everyone will be able to get something out of it, and that secondary teachers will be able to use this experience as a starting point for some of their lessons as well.
Please feel free to post your comments or questions, and I will do my best to bring back the information you are most curious about!