NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 8 – 28, 2017
Mission: MACE Pollock Fish Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 6, 2017
My bags are packed and I am now waiting here in Seattle for the shuttle to take me to the airport to continue my journey to Kodiak, Alaska to meet up with the NOAA crew. I didn’t realize that getting to Kodiak would include 4 flights and 2 days of travel (I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of living behind the Redwood Curtain).
My mind is full of questions as I mentally prepare myself for the next three weeks aboard the Oscar Dyson. It has been a month of preparations not only for my classroom, my family, but more important, for myself. Will I get seasick? How am I going to utilize what I learn on the sea back in the classroom? Will my students make it to the end of the school year without me? (Of course they will!) Will my own kids manage on their own? Will I be helpful and useful to the crew on the ship?
Between making sub plans, packing up my classroom for the end of the year, making sure that my house was stocked with groceries for my kids, and packing for what I think I will need on this research cruise, I have managed to set aside time to read the, “2015 Results of the Acoustic-Trawl Survey of Walleye Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska” from the last NOAA research cruise in that area.
As I was reading about the various troughs, islands, straights, and bays in which the surveys were conducted, I realized that my geographical knowledge of Alaska was very limited. I was not able to visualize where these locations were. I quickly got an “old school” paper map of the state and was then able to track the locations and follow the path of the survey. I was beginning to get the big picture. I realized that I never before had actually looked UP CLOSE at an actual state map of Alaska. There is so much there! I had no idea that the Aleutian Islands were within the Alaska Maritime National Refuge. There are so many small islands! Every time I looked at the map closer, I discovered new details that I missed before.
I quickly shared my newfound knowledge and enthusiasm with my students. We talked about what kind of ecosystems there might be around so many bays, straights and islands. They asked questions about what kinds of animals lived there and wanted to know how many people there are, whether there was a lifeboat on the ship, where the kids go to school, and how they get to the airport. We discussed what it would be like being in Alaska on the summer solstice. They asked more about the seasons and why it stays bright for so long during the day that far north. They were curious about so many little things, however the most frequently asked question that I got was, “Ms. Lenz, are you going to come back?” Of course, I am!
What started as a personal inquiry for me turned into a great classroom discussion for my students and a way for them to begin to understand where I am actually going a bit better. Though I was not able to answers all of their questions (yet), I now feel that I have a greater responsibility to them to come back with some answers to their questions.