Melanie Lyte: On the Brink of an Adventure at Sea! May 7, 2013


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melanie Lyte
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
May 20 – 31, 2013

Mission: Right Whale Survey, Great South Channel
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic 
Date: May 14, 2013

Personal Log

Hello, from Castleton, New York. My name is Melanie Lyte and I am a first grade teacher at Bell Top Elementary School . I am very fortunate to teach in a school of dedicated staff where creativity and innovation is fostered, and embraced. My principal, Jim McHugh, was the one who urged me to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, and I am grateful to him for his support and encouragement. Although Bell Top is a public school, many of the yearly activities our students are involved in are unique, especially in a public school setting. With funds from a NSTA administered Toyota Tapestry Grant we built a Learning Barn on our school grounds. The barn, built uniquely using both Dutch and English architectural styles so students can compare the two ways, houses an evaporator for a school wide maple sugaring project, as well as cider press for making apple cider in the fall.  We also have amazing parental support at our school, a very active PTO, and of course the best kids in the world walk through our doors each day!

Bell Top Elementary School,Troy, NY
Bell Top Elementary School, Troy NY

I originally applied to be a teacher at sea because I love science and adventure, and I love to bring my experiences outside the classroom back to enrich my students. In the last few years I have camped in the jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia, hiked and kayaked in Alaska,  visited the rain forests of Brazil, and traveled to China. I believe we must expose our children to the the broader world, and the natural world around them in order to foster a curiosity about far away places, and  love and appreciation for our earth. We need to feed every student’s innate sense of wonder and excitement for the world around them.

My friend Harold and I on top of a volcano in Sumatra, Indonesia.
My friend Harold and I on top of a volcano in Sumatra, Indonesia.

I think the opportunity to work with real scientists doing research will be a life changing event for me, and I am even more enthused because the mission of this voyage, conducting a right whale survey in the North Atlantic, is perfect for my first graders! What child doesn’t get excited about whales?!?! I am also very fortunate to teach with my partner in first grade, Sarah Lussier. She and I truly have a the best teaching partnership imaginable, and we, and our students, are enriched by it.  To prepare our students for my upcoming voyage, we have been learning all we can about right whales, and whales in general. We painted a  right whale and whale calf on the parking lot at school (that was an adventure in itself – think 42 first graders  with paint brushes and black concrete paint). The students also researched right whales, created diagrams of the whale, and developed informational posters of what they learned. I think the consensus of the students is that right whales are “really cool, but a little lazy, and kind of ugly.” (as one of my first graders so  eloquently put it). They are fascinated by the callosities on the whales and are saddened that the whales sit on top of the water so often and are in danger of being hit by boats. While I’m at sea the students in both our classrooms will be working on many other whale related activities, as well as following my blog.

Right whale calf created by first graders at BellTop Elementary School.
Right whale calf created by first graders at BellTop Elementary School.
Categorizing toothed and baleen whales by the first graders at Bell Top School
Categorizing toothed and baleen whales by the first graders at Bell Top School
Whale Facts by first graders at Bell Top School.
Whale Facts by first graders at Bell Top School.
Whale Sizes by the first graders at Bell Top School.
Whale Sizes by the first graders at Bell Top School.
Right whale (1980) Massachusetts Secretary of ...
The right whale became the official state marine mammal of Massachusetts in 1980. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/NOAA

So in less than two weeks my adventure at sea will begin! I will be joining head scientist Allison Henry and the crew of the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Gordon Gunter out of Boston MA. We will be conducting a North Atlantic Right whale survey, but I have been told we will see other whales as well such as humpback, sei, and minke. I can’t wait to explore the ocean with scientists, and learn all I can about the creatures who live there. I hope you will join me on my adventure by reading my blogs while I’m at sea.

Gordon Gunter
NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter (photo credit NOAA)

58 Replies to “Melanie Lyte: On the Brink of an Adventure at Sea! May 7, 2013”

  1. Such an amazing experience! Enjoy every minute and we look forward to reading the blog. Love, Kyle, Kayla, Matt, Jen Senich

  2. Hi Melanie, We all looked at your blog first thing this morning. Kids are now in Art, day seems to be going well! Can’t wait to read about your first day at sea. Julia

    1. Hi Julia, Sarah, and first graders.

      I hope you all had fun on field day. I wish I could have been there to watch you do all your events. Did we win the tug of war?
      It is very foggy out here in the middle of the ocean. It is supposed to get windy tonight and we might get hail. It is very hard to see whales when you can’t see more than 50ft. out from the ship. I am hopeful the weather will change soon. I can’t wait to get close to a right whale!

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  3. Good morning, Mel! It’s Tuesday Planning Morning and although I miss you…Julia and I are already having a blast with our awesome first graders! Hope the seas are calm and you get to see amazing right whales today!
    Sarah

  4. Best to you on this adventure, Melanie. I just returned this morning from my stint at sea aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier conducting hydrographic surveys in Alaska. You have some exciting days ahead of you. Enjoy the trip!
    Bill Lindquist
    Teacher at Sea – Rainier

  5. Hi Ms Lyte I miss you a lot. I can not wait intella you come back . We hade lots of fun at field day. I hope you have lots of fun.hope you see a whale. Love Nicole.

    1. Hi Nicole,

      Thank you for your email. I miss you and all the kids in room 20. It has been very foggy way out here in the ocean so we haven’t seen many whales. I hope you all has fun on Field Day. I wish I could’ve been there to cheer you on, but I know you are in good hands with Mrs. Smart.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  6. Hello Melanie! You are my second leg! I was the TAS on the first leg of the Right Whale survey. Here are my wishes for you… days without fog, calm seas with no sea sickness, lots of Right whales, many SAGs (surface active groups), dependable internet connection, and multiple trips out in the small boats! Enjoy your work and say hello to Allison and the crew for me!!!!!
    Angela Greene
    Teacher at Sea aboard the Gordon Gunter 2013

    1. Hi Angela,

      Unfortunately we are having the same weather you had on your trip- lots of fog and no right whales so far.
      I’m hoping things improve soon! Of course, it’s still an amazing experience.

      Melanie

  7. Hey Mel, We will start an ocean study in grade 2 at Genet this week and can’t wait to show the kids your blog. Hope the seas are calm and you are seeing many creatures! Love you, Sue

  8. Hey Mel, We will start an ocean study in grade 2 at Genet this week and can’t wait to show the kids your blog. Hope the seas are calm and you are seeing many creatures! Love you, Sue

  9. Hi Ms. Lyte! I hope you are having fun. I miss you. I hope you are warm and don’t get sea sick. Love, Layla

    1. Hi Layla,

      Thank you for your email. I miss you, and all the kids in room 20. I am keeping warm, but it is very windy and foggy! We can’t see any whales ): I am hopeful that the weather gets better soon. I hope you had fun on Field Day- I missed being there to cheer you on.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  10. Ms.Lyte,

    After Kollin sent his message and it did not go through, mommy re-typed it and made typos. Boy! Am I in big trouble. He is making me tell you that I made a mistake. : ). We had fun at field day and missed you. I never said I could type! See you soon.

    Love,
    Laurie and Kollin

    1. Hi Kollin,
      Thank you for your email. I miss you guys. I was glad to hear that Field Day was a success. I hope you have a great long weekend.
      The weather is so bad here that we have had to stop sailing and put down the anchor right off of Provincetown in Cape Cod. We are going to get a big storm which means we may be here for a couple days. I have seen some whitesided dolphins and a gray seal, but no right whales yet. I am hopeful that after the storm comes through the weather will get better (no fog and calm seas). Then we will finally get to see and tag some whales.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  11. Hi Ms Lyte.We won tug of war.I hope you see right whales soon.We are having fun with Mrs Smart.We are learning more about right whales each day.We have been reading your blog every day. Even my mom!We miss you! See you soon. Love Gracie

    1. Hi Kollin,

      Thank you for your note. Last night we had to stop sailing and put the anchor down because we are getting a really big storm. We might have to sit here in the bay off Provincetown for 2 days. It is very disappointing! I have seen some withesided dolphins and a gray seal, but no right whales yet.
      I hope you have a great Memorial Day vacation. I was glad to hear that Field Day was fun for you guys.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

    2. Hi Gracie,
      Yay! We won the tug of war! I knew you guys would love having Mrs. Smart. She’s the best!
      Right now we have had to set anchor off Provincetown because a big storm is coming our
      way. The captain said we may be here until Sunday ): I have seen some whitestriped dolphins and a gray seal. There were some humpback whales way off in the distance, but I didn’t see them.
      Have a great Memorial Day vacation, and I will see you on June 3rd.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  12. Hi Ms. Lyte! We’re writing to you first thing on Thursday morning. We are so excited that you wrote back to us!! We hope the fog goes away so you can see right whales and other marine mammals. Do you sleep well on the boat? It must be a little cold and bumpy. Where do you sleep on the boat? Where do you eat breakfast? We’re thinking clear skies and sunny weather for you. We hope you are having fun!

    Love, Your Kids

    1. Hi Guys,
      Thanks for your email. I sleep really well on the boat. I actually sleep really well anywhere (as Mrs. Lussier has told you (: ).
      I sleep in a stateroom (that’s what they call it on a ship). It has a bunk bed, a dresser, a closet, and a bathroom. I bunk with a girl named Barbara. She goes to a college called College of the Atlantic in Maine. I bet Mrs. Smart knows about it since she’s originally from Maine. It is cold at night on the ship, but I have an extra blanket. It can be bunpy when the weather is bad, but today is very smooth.
      We eat in the galley. I talk a lot about the food in my next post (that I hope will be published by Wednesday). We hav an amazing Ship Steward (cook) on board named Margaret Coyle.
      Your wish for clear skies has come true, but still no whales. We just don’t know where they’re hiding!
      I miss you all, and can’t wait until I’m back. It was fun to be a scientist for a while, but I miss being your teacher.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  13. Mrs. Lussier’s class has some questions and comments for you. Have you finally seen a whale or anything at all? How is your trip and are you having fun? Have you been seasick? We hope there are no thunderstorms. How close are you to land? How can the boat driver see through all the fog? Have you met any friends on the boat? We don’t want you to be lonely. Mrs. Lussier wants to know if you have fallen asleep while it’s been your turn to be on watch. We hope you write back to our questions and comments soon!

    1. Hi Mrs. Lussier’s Class,

      I have seen one right whale. It was a juvenile. I have also seen some humback, sei, and finback whales. I saw about 20 dolphins today, and a seal. I was very bored when we were anchored off Provincetown, but I’m with some very nice people so that helps.
      The crew of the boat has radar they look at when the visibility is bad. We also have a fog horn to warn other boats that we’re out here. The other boats also have fog horns. I have not been lonely. I have met some friends. Thank you for worrying about me, though. I miss all you guys and am anxious to get back to school. Tell Mrs. Lussier that surprisingly enough I haven’t fallen asleep on watch yet. Being out in the fresh cold air all day does make me extra tired though, so I’ve been getting lots of sleep! I put on a special patch I got from the doctor to keep me from getting sea sick, but it made my vision really blurry so I had to take it off. My vision was blurry for about 5 days and is finally back to normal. Since I’ve taken the patch off, I have not gotten sick.

      I hope you had a great vacation. I will see you all very soon!

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  14. Hi Melanie! This is Toni (from Arlington, MA)…..Elaine’s friend!! This is sooooooo very exciting this adventure you are on! I, too, like all those above, hope that you see a right whale and soon! And that the sun comes out and that you see blue blue sky! Enjoy every single moment of this truly incredible trip!

  15. Love reading about your blog I am just as excited as the children at Bell Top!. Better weather is comng soon! Right whales are awesome cant wait to hear more about your exoerience!

  16. Dear Ms. Lyte,
    Is it bumpy on the boat? How can you sleep on the boat? I hope your weather gets better so you can see whales! Have fun!
    From,
    Jack

    1. Hi Jack,

      Thank you for your email. The boat is not that bumpy normally, but right now we are anchored off of Provincetown because there is a big storm coming and it’s not really safe to sail in this weather. We will probably be here until Sunday. I sleep in what is called a stateroom on the ship. It has bunk beds and I have a roommate. The swaying boat makes faling to sleep really easy.
      I am hopeful that after the storm ends it will be clear and calm-perfect conditions for seeing whales.
      Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  17. Hi Ms. Lyte,
    I hope you are having fun on the boat! Can’t wait to see you and hear about all the stuff you saw! I liked doing Field Day this week, it was REALLY hot!!! I wish you were there! We are having a good time with Mrs. Smart. Hope you have lots of really good things to say and see. I hope you are having a good time!
    Love,
    Brendan K.:)

    1. Hi Brendan,

      I’m glad Field Day was fun. I heard we won the tug of war!!!! I missed being there for that. I knew you’d have funwith Mrs. Smart!
      We have had lots of fog and wind on the ship so we haven’t seen any whales yet. Right now we’re anchored off Provincetown on Cape Cod because there is a big storm coming our way. We will have to sit here until Sunday. I should have brought more books with me!
      Enjoy your vacation and I’ll see you on June 3rd.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  18. Hi Ms. Lyte,
    Are you having fun? Have you seen a whale yet? Hope you see a Right Whale! How do you sleep on the boat?

    Love,
    Brendan M.

    1. Hi Brendan,

      It is fun being out in the ocean, and I have met many really nice people. I hope we get to see many whales after this storm passes over. Right now we are anchored off Provincetown and we’ll stay here until Sunday. Just sitting here is not much fun. It is really easy to sleep on the ship. My bed is comfy, and the swaying of the ship makes falling asleep easy. The living qurters are called staterooms. I am sharing mine with another person. We have bunk beds.
      Have a great vacation. I miss you!

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

      1. Hi,
        Thanks for writing back and I sleep on a bunk bed too. I am on the top bunk, what bunk do you sleep on?

        Love,
        Brendan M.

  19. Hi Ms. Lyte,

    I’m going to Maine this weekend, I might go on a whale watch too. I hope the weather gets better so you can study whales. If you can, write back soon.
    Love,
    Colton

    1. Hi Colton,

      Thank you for your post. I hope you get to see whales on your trip. We are anchored off of Provincetown until Sunday because there is a big storm coming our way and it’s not safe to be out in the ocean. Enjoy your trip and have a great vacation.

      Love,

      Ms. Lyte

  20. dear miss lyte . i miss you a lot . is it stil fogy . have you saw a whale . i can t wait to see you. are you haveing fun. i hop you have a awesome time seeing the right whales.
    love
    sage.

    1. Hi Sage,

      I miss you too, honey. I have yet to see a whale, but I’m hoping once the weather changes we will have blue skies and calm waters. Right now we are anchored off Provincetown in cape Cod until Sunday because they are expecting a big storm. Have a great vacation and I’ll see you on June 3rd.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

    1. Hi Sophia,

      I will ake a point of not falling in the water! Our ship is anchored right now off the coast of Provincetown because there is a big storm coming. I think it will be cool to watch the storm from sea. Enjoy your vacation.

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

    1. I saw three birds that are new to me: gannets, northern fulmar, and sheerwaters. They are all sea birds who omly go to land to nest. I will have pics of them when my 3rd blog gets posted.

      Love,
      Melanie

      1. Those are three great birds to add to your life list! Can’t wait to see pictures! Wishing you warm sunny weather soon! Love, Denise

  21. Hi Ms. Lyte,
    It’s Adam, I miss you! Have you seen any whales today? Are you still in Cape Cod? The weather is terrible here too. I like reading your blog. We are having family movie night
    tonight. I hope you see whales soon! I hope you are having a good time! I miss you a lot!!!

    Love, Adam

    1. Hi Adam,

      Yes, I am still anchored off Provincetown, but we should start sailing again tonight. Monday looks like a nice day so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we see whales. Family movie night is a good choice for this rainy weather. I miss you too! Hopefully, next time I write I’ll have something exciting to report!

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  22. Dear Mrs. Lyte,
    Are there any other former Bell Top teachers with you on the boat. Where are you right now? How’s the weather? It has been raining with lots of thunderstorms here and some sunny days. Have fun on your trip. We miss you. Did a right whale see you?

    Love Benjamin Dikant and his sister Danielle

    1. Hi Benjamin,

      I’m the only teacher on board. Everyone else is a scientist or the crew. The weather was bad for a few days, but now it’s sunny and the sea is calm. It is still very windy out here in the middle of the ocean. Thank you for your email. I’ll see you soon!

      Love,
      Ms. Lyte

  23. Hi Ms Lyte
    I hope you had a nice Memorial Day. We can’t wait until you come back to BellTop. We miss you. Are you back looking for whales yet. See you soon. Love Gracie

    1. Hi Gracie,

      It didn’t feel like Memorial Day here on the ship. The ship steward (cook) did make homemade ice cream and apple pie so that was a treat. I miss you too. It feels like I’ve been gone a long time. See you all soon!

      Love,

      Ms. Lyte

  24. dear mrs lyte
    i love you a lot in my heart.
    when you come back i am going to give you a squishy hug.
    i miss you lot.
    love
    sage

    1. Dear Sage, I miss you too, Honey. I’d live a squishy hug! Can’t wait to see you again!

      Love, Ms. Lyte

      Sent from my iPhone

  25. Hi It’s Makaylah do you like the trip you are rely nice I love you a lot did you met fens. Is the wether nice.
    Love. Makaylah

    1. Hi Makaylah,

      I missed you too. I met some really nice people. The weather was very windy and a little cold.

      Love,

      Ms. Lyte

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