Cassie Kautzer: Reflections… September 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Spread the word about NOAA’s Mission and Vision to the next generation of scientists!
Geographical Area: Monitor Elementary – Springdale, AR
Date: September 7, 2014

Temperature & Weather: 80° F, Mostly Sunny  (Maybe the coolest day Arkansas has had in weeks!)

Science & Technology Log

In college, Professor Susan Foster, taught me about being a lifelong learner.  I had heard this term before – but never took to heart what it meant.  She talked about my learning inspiring my students learning.  She made me think about how I got my students attention, and planning where I wanted that attention to go.  I am a LIFE LONG LEARNER, and my biggest hope would be to inspire the same yearn for learning in my students!

I want my students to be as excited and enthralled by this experience as I was.  They were the forethought in all of my blogs: what would interest them? What would make an impact? What would create more inquiries and questions?

Monitor Mallard at the helm - driving the ship and inspiring the students of his school to think of a career at sea.
Monitor Mallard at the helm – driving the ship and inspiring the students of his school to think of a career at sea.

I know that I have learned a lot more about NOAA and their goals and responsibilities as sea!  The Teacher at Sea Program, in particular, aims to support NOAA related environmental literacy, outreach, and educational initiatives.   The TAS program also wants to support workforce retention within NOAA, and has a goal to recruit and retain a highly adaptable, technically competent and diverse workforce.

My personal goals from experiences aboard Rainier are to inspire students to want to learn more about SCIENCE!!!  Specifically, I want to interest them more in: the Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, Technology, Hydrography, or NOAA and NOAA Corps.  My students will not be limited by the location in which they live.  I want them to see the ample opportunities available if their interests lie in marine life: NOAA Corps, Engineering, Vessel Assisting, Hydrography (Oceanography, Geography, Geology, GIS, etc), Food Sciences, Technology, etc.

My experiences working and living with the crew of NOAA ship Rainier have inspired me to “spread the word”.

I would like to thank:

  • CO EJ Van Den Ameele, XO Holly Jablonski, and all the NOAA Corps Officers for making me feel welcome and guiding me through my adventure.
  • The Survey Techs for answering my never ending questions about hydrography, the necessary computer technology, and the constant processing of data.
  • The Engineers for keeping the ship going while I was living aboard J, asking questions about my students (the next generation of engineers!), and trying to help me understand the innerworkings of the ship.
  • The Coxwains for bravely attempting to (safely) teach me a little bit about driving a boat, and keeping me apprised of wildlife sightings in the area.
  • The Vessel Assistants, Stewards, and all other crew for being friendly, making me feel welcome, keeping me well fed, keeping me safe, and letting me/ showing me how to help throughout our time at sea.

Personal Log

I write this last entry, as the first, from my couch in Northwest Arkansas – this time, with a whole new perspective.

My puppy, Bella, attacks her new Kodiak Bear as I reflect on my time in and around Kodiak, aboard the Rainier.
My puppy, Bella, attacks her new Kodiak Bear as I reflect on my time in and around Kodiak, aboard the Rainier.

Almost three and a half weeks ago, I boarded an airplane (three actually) from Northwest Arkansas to Kodiak, Alaska.  As I was stepping aboard the NOAA ship Rainier, 112 ten-year-olds were preparing to step into my science classroom for the first time.  What were they feeling?  What were they thinking?  I felt much like I expect new students do on the first day of school, and wondered the same types of questions: Would people be nice to me?  Who would I sit by?  Would I be smart enough?  Would I miss my home and my family?  Would I make friends?  Would I UNDERSTAND?

That last question is the one that almost bit me… because the first few days aboard the Rainier, it was as if everyone was speaking a foreign language.  Everyone was speaking English, of course, but it was the language of Science… the language of NOAA… the language of Ships… the language of the Sea!  There were acronyms, abbreviations, and generally dissimilar words from my usual daily vernacular.  Suddenly rack means bed, mess means cafeteria, port means left, aft means back, FOO is the Field Operations Officer, DTON is a Danger to Navigation, C-deck somehow describes the location of my room, and the man in charge is “CDR EJ Van Den Ameele – Commanding Officer” – so I should address him as…??? I had NO Idea!  All the while, inside my head I am wondering “What am I supposed to be doing right now?”

After a day or two all of my nerves began to ease, as I began to figure things out.  I also found that asking a quick question would often get me not only the information I needed, but the introduction to a new person.  And I say all I did above, not because the Rainier and its crew didn’t take good care of me: they took excellent care of me!  They introduced me all around, they gave me tours, gave me several days on each assignment, talked me through things, checked on me, fed me really well, and answered, answered, and re-answered all of my questions!

However, I say all I did above because of my students.  It is not often I get the chance to walk in their shoes.  As their teacher, I feel like I know them- and understand them- because I have been teaching for years, have had many of their siblings, and of course, once went to elementary school myself.  I never walked in their shoes though.  I never experienced everyone speaking to me in a language I am not very familiar with.  I never experienced an organizational (family) structure I was not familiar with.   I never had so many tools and systems of information that I didn’t know what to do with.  My biggest take away from this experience is UNDERSTANDING – the understanding that I do not truly understand what each student feels when they are: new to the school or class, don’t speak any of the language, haven’t been to a school like Monitor or a district like Springdale before.  It is with this realization that I will approach my students tomorrow – with an even more open heart and mind, more patience, and more tools and strategies in my belt – just in case I need them!

My homeroom students, "bubbling" over with excitement  (I hope)!  I can't wait to meet them tomorrow - and only hope they are as inspired by me as I am by them!
My homeroom students, “bubbling” over with excitement (I hope)! I can’t wait to meet them tomorrow – and only hope they are as inspired by me as I am by them and their questions/comments/emails throughout my journey.

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