As a teacher, I am constantly involved in professional development activities which could take the form of a presentation, workshop, seminar, book study or immersive educator experiences such as NOAA Teacher at Sea. At the end of each offering, whether I am required to or not, I take it upon myself to consider its impact on me as an educator and reflect upon how the take-home messages will impact my students. Because of the wide-ranging facets and extensive learning opportunities provided by the Teacher at Sea cruise, I took particular interest in drafting my reflections. It was an experience that I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about and an activity that I looked forward to reflecting upon. However, just to be clear, reflections in my definition is not a concise and cogent summary of the activities that occurred while on cruise. This is what was presented in each prior post of my blog. Rather, my reflection represents a “30,000-foot overview” of my interpretation and evaluation of the experience.
As I prepared the text for the reflections of my Teacher at Sea cruise, I opted to adapt the words to photos of scenic views taken from onboard the R/V Tommy Munro and threaded the images together in a video presentation.
Reflections of a Teacher at Sea George Hademenos SEAMAP Groundfish Survey
As I gaze in any direction at the seemingly endless volumes of ocean, I see questions… questions to be answered and answers to be questioned, questions to be formed and questions to be researched, questions that will inspire one to learn beyond imagination… with answers that will foster an understanding deep within… of the unexplored frontier of marine life below the water’s surface. Questions to me present an opportunity… to celebrate what we know and to stimulate our quest to discover what we don’t. As a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I will return to the classroom with… questions waiting to be answered, answers waiting to be investigated, and hopefully career paths in ocean sciences waiting to be pursued.
I hope you enjoy the video and for my educator colleagues, please consider taking advantage of this “once in a lifetime” opportunity for you and your students.
In wrapping up the final post for this blog, I would like to continue with the final installment of my exercise of the Ocean Literacy Framework and ask you to respond to three questions about the seventh essential principle (The ocean is largely unexplored), presented in a Padlet accessed by the following link:
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers – the questions serve not as an opportunity to answer yes or no, or to get answers right or wrong; rather, these questions serve as an opportunity not only to assess what you know or think about the scope of the principle but also to learn, explore, and investigate the demonstrated principle. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please indicate so in the blog and I would be glad to answer your questions and initiate a discussion.
“65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist (World Economic Forum).”
I can’t help but wonder what types of careers and jobs will be available for our students. However, I can speculate that marine science would have a huge piece on this “never-before-existed” future job pool when you consider seventy percent of our Earth’s surface is covered with ocean and among it eighty percent of it unmapped, unobserved and unexplored, according to NOAA. There are many different careers available within NOAA and I believe there will be many more new careers available for the future generations.
You may wonder and ask why oceans are still unexplored. One answer comes from Dr. Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He states that one of the biggest challenges of ocean exploration comes down to physics. In the depth of the ocean, there is zero visibility, extremely cold temperatures, and crushing amounts of pressure. He also states that “ In some ways, it’s a lot easier to send people into space than it is to send people to the bottom of the ocean”. It is hard to fathom what it looks, and feels like under the water, at least for me as a non-swimmer.
With technological advancements, who knows what mysteries will be solved in the world of oceans in the future? I think it is important to show our students to know the unknown world of oceans and inspire them to take careers related to marine science so that we can know more about our blue planet. Without knowing our oceans, there would be no future for our own existence.
It’s been a great learning experience while at sea for 12 days. I have learned so much, met incredible women and men, and made awesome friends.
As a STEM educator, the reason I wanted to apply for this opportunity is because I wanted to bring marine science into my school and community. By training, most of the time I spent time in various labs focusing on genetic studies using many biotechnological tools during my graduate study. But, it wasn’t until my NOAA experience to involve marine science research in the field. Much of my marine science knowledge comes from theory, reading books/ articles, or watching documentaries. This lack of experiential knowledge put me in a position where my students are also learning it from textbooks. However, now thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I am confidently bringing any resources or tools related to the ocean, and atmosphere to my students. My plan is to create interdisciplinary project-based learning opportunities that involve challenging questions related to marine science.
Thank you NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for allowing me to participate once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and thank you NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson crew for hosting me with great hospitality, and allowing me to learn more about marine science.
Did you know?
Sometimes NOAA’s ships are open to the public for tours. In fact, I am planning to take my students to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson sometime in September while it is still in Great Lakes.
Have you ever wondered what the seabed (lakebed) made of? This information is important for several reasons: knowing where to anchor, pipeline &/or structure construction, habitat, dredging, etc. Information about the sediments can be found on navigational charts. Periodically, hydrographers need to take bottom samples to update these charts. To do this, they bring the ship to a halt and drop a spring-loaded sampler to the seafloor. The sampler snaps shut, capturing a sample of the bottom substrate. The sediments that are brought aboard are analyzed according to grain size which range from clay (< 0.002 mm) to stones (4.0 mm and larger).
What is it called to drive a ship? The action of driving a ship is probably most often called piloting the ship. You may also hear people use the words steer, navigate, guide, maneuver, control, direct, captain, or shepherd. Whatever you want to call it – I was super excited to pilot the ship. I was also a bit nervous because it is so big! Maneuvering a 208’ vessel seemed a bit daunting.
I first got some excellent tutoring by Helmsman AB Kinnett and Conning Officer ENS Brostowski. All I needed to do was to make a 180ᵒ turn. How difficult could it be? I needed to take the ship out of the navigation system (commonly called, Nav Nav), go from autopilot to manual steering, follow the Conning Officer’s rudder directions, do some fine tuning, switch from manual steering to autopilot, and turn on the Nav Nav system. Easy shmeezy!
My legs were shaking just a bit. I guess I did okay. Someone did call up from the plot room and ask, “Just who is driving the ship?” Haha. They calmed down once they learned it was just “the teacher”.
We came into the Port of Cleveland on July 22. The crew did a super job of parking! (I am sure “parking” is not the correct term.) They used the windlass and ropes to secure the ship to the port (on the starboard side) and then put the gangway in place. Don’t forget to take out the garbage!
In late April 2022, I was informed by the NOAA Teacher at Sea office that I would sail aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on a hydrographic survey of Lake Erie in July. Truthfully, I didn’t know what hydrography entailed – but I was familiar with Lake Erie.
I grew up only 20 miles from the Port of Cleveland. As a child, my family spent a week each summer on Middle Bass Island where I learned to swim and fish for walleye and perch. I was a sun-kissed, towheaded child that liked to catch frogs and talk with insects. My daughter and I vacationed on Kelleys Island for many summers. I even took an oceanography class on Gibraltar Island. I was very excited to learn more about the Lake of my childhood.
So, why are the Great Lakes so Great?
The following video will help you get an idea of why these lakes are so significant. See if you can answer the following questions while watching the video.
How many lakes make up the Great Lakes?
Why is the word “HOMES” a good way to remember the names of the lakes?
How many states border the Great Lakes?
What country is north of the Great Lakes?
Geologically speaking, how did the Great Lakes come to be?
How much of the world’s fresh surface water is in the Great Lakes?
Which lake is the deepest, coldest, and contains ½ of the water in the Great Lakes system?
Which two lakes are “technically” one lake? Why?
Which lake has the longest shoreline?
Which lake is the warmest and shallowest?
How does water get from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario?
How does water that starts in Lake Superior finally get to the Atlantic Ocean?
List three reasons why the Great Lakes are so great!
List a few things that are causing problems for the Great Lakes.
What effect is climate change having on the Great Lakes?
How are people and governments trying to protect this GREAT resource?
When I travel, I like to read books that have a connection to my experience. While on Thomas Jefferson, I read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan. It outlines the vast resources provided by the Great Lakes. Not only do they hold 20% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, they also provide food, transportation, and recreation to tens of millions of Americans and Canadians. The Great Lakes are so very lifegiving, however, they are in trouble. They are under threat as never before. They need our help.
In his book, Egan describes how invasive species – like the sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels – have colonized the lakes, issues associated with these invasions, and what has been done to mediate and prevent the arrival of future invasive species. He also discusses the massive biological “dead” zones caused by outbreaks of toxic algal blooms. Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Forecasts are a regular part of the NOAA weather forecast for the western basin of Lake Erie. Human-made climate change, dredging of shipping channels, and threats to siphon off Great Lakes water to be used beyond the watershed boundaries all pose threats to this incredible resource. He ends the book with what was being done in 2017 (publication date) to “chart a course toward integrity, stability and balance” of the Great Lakes.
All in all, it was a pretty depressing book. It caused me to reflect, however, on what I can do as an educator to bring this knowledge to my students. Even more importantly, how can I have students experience and eventually love the lakes and all they represent? How can I get them to become familiar with and care for the nature in their backyard? My work is cut out for me.
“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.”
— Richard Louv
The week before leaving on my “Grand NOAA Adventure”, I was nervous and started to doubt my own abilities and why I had applied to Teacher at Sea in the first place. Was I cut out to be a successful Teacher at Sea? Did I have the knowledge, skills, and fortitude to thrive at sea? What happens if my technology crashes? What if I am seasick for 19 days?
Four things happened to help me move forward.
My husband – my chief cheerleader – gave me many doses of encouragement. If he believed I could do it – I knew I could.
I came across a saying on a tea bag (of all places) that gave me great strength, “Personal growth lies within the unknown; courage permits you to explore this space.” This experience would take courage. I am courageous.
My daughter reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver. The last lines of which, “What are you going to do with your one wild, precious life?” That’s right! You only go around once. Take the bull by the horns – so to speak. Jump on and hold tight. Life is short, and the world is wide.
NOAA and NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program believed in me enough to provide me with this awesome opportunity. They have seen many a teacher come and go. They believed I had what it took to be successful. I chose to believe them.
NOAA TAS stresses the 3 Fs: Flexibility, Following Orders, and Fortitude. These are words to live by.
Flexibility = Everything doesn’t always turn out as planned. Be flexible. Those who are not flexible, break.
Following Orders = On a ship, this is essential. In life, rules are made for a reason. Follow them. If you believe that the rules are unjust, work to change them.
Fortitude = Have courage. Be strong – physically and in your convictions. Be tenacious and believe in yourself.
I wish to thank NOAA TAS program and all the people who live and work aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Thank you for the long conversations and my seemingly endless questioning. My curiosity is insatiable. Thank you for checking my blog for accuracy – it needed to be “ship shape”! Thank you for brainstorming with me inventions that could be created to make hydrographic technology easier if there were no budgetary restrictions. Thank you for opening my eyes to a world of science, technology, and research that I previously did not know existed. Thank you for teaching me what it meant to be part of the crew.
This experience has taught me many things about science and technology, career possibilities, what it is like to live on a ship, relationships and work culture, and the power of reflection. I learned so much more than is represented in my blog posts. I am looking forward to sharing my experience with my students and the community.
All my best to my new friends. May you continue to have fair winds and following seas.
Dalton STEAM & NOAA Teacher at Sea
For the Little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: He was getting ready to come home.
Greetings again from New Hampshire! It seems fitting that my NOAA Teacher at Sea blogs are bookended at home in cooler 55 F rainy weather. The garden is in and looking forward to the hot sun that will follow.
Science and Technology Log
Part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is creating two lesson plans, one about science & technology, and the other about careers. I am looking forward to writing and improving those lessons based on student feedback. My 9th graders began this process by analyzing data I took home from one of the CTD sites. NOAA scientist Kevin was generous with his time. He gave me data binned by meter and took the time to make sure all of the information was clear. Since the CTD array collects data eight times a second, the dataset would have been a little unruly otherwise. Back in the classroom, my students created a list of questions that could be looked at based on the data available. They then created data stories that explored questions such as:
Is there a correlation between oxygen and fluorescence?
How does depth correlate to sound velocity?
How big are the differences in temperature?
What is the variability of fluorescence?
How does the temperature change as you go deeper in the water?
How does salinity between shallow and deeper parts vary?
Is there a correlation between pressure and salinity?
Is there a correlation between depth and density?
Does oxygen vary?
The amount of data out there can feel overwhelming sometimes. There is a greater need than ever before to know how to sift through information and critique it. Giving students constant opportunities to practice how to interpret data is important. This process also connected the information they learned from the blog posts to the next step in science research. Once the data is collected, it needs analysis and interpretation. The ability to critically analyze information is vital to an informed citizenry.
I’ve been back home for almost two weeks and it’s been back to the end-of-school groove. Sometimes it feels surreal that recently I was on a real working fisheries vessel. I have taken solo trips before so I know the feeling of going through a unique experience only to return home to everyone just normally moving forward as life does. It can feel a little jarring. This one felt even more so even though I was in contact the whole time.
It was great getting questions and comments in person. I was happy to hear people from age 6 to 96 were following along when I was away. I am not naturally a journaler, but I appreciate the ability to reread my own experiences later. It will also provide a tool for my teaching.
The week I returned to school was Spirit Week. It happened to be character day when I was asked to speak to the School Board about my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience. Not everyone can say they have talked to their School Board about their time at sea, while dressed as a pirate. Of course, the experience is not over. I still have those lesson plans in the works and there are other loose ends to tie up (such as this final post). I also look forward to continuing through the network of NOAA Teacher at Sea alumni. NOAA is such a rich resource for science and science learning. I am very thankful for the opportunities NOAA Teacher at Sea has afforded me as a science educator and to the crew and science team from my time on NOAA Ship Pisces.
Did You Know?
Teacher at Sea has accepted teachers from all 50 states, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Guam since 1990. Interested? Any full time pre-K-12 teacher; community college, college, or university teacher; museum or aquarium educator; or adult education teacher may apply.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces (In Port)
May 04, 2016 – May 12, 2016
“Is that an eyeball in its stomach?”
“Can I touch it?”
I hear the inquiry skills of tomorrow’s scientists develop under the guidance of Fisheries Biologists Lisa Jones and Christian Jones during a recent shark dissection at the Pascagoula, Mississippi Laboratories of NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center. The NOAA mission of “Science, Service, and Stewardship” is taken very seriously as fishery biologists work with students of all ages to learn about our natural resources and how to understand and manage them wisely. But NOAA Fisheries doesn’t just educate people about science, they do research, provide national data collection, collaborate with other scientists, help make everything from nets to policies to help manage our scarce resources, and even sniff our fish to make sure it is safe to eat.
Developing scientific methods to answer questions that can only be answered by collecting data, science, is the first of NOAA’s three part mission. Kevin Rademacher, a Fisheries Biologist, uses his understanding of scientific inquiry and standardized data collection to inspire students. He encourages students to consider characteristics, purpose, and habitat to expand their inquiry when they ask questions like why one shell spiky and the other one is smooth.
Kevin’s deep understanding of the diversity of life in the Gulf of Mexico is obvious as he inspires students from nearby Pascagoula, and as far away as Tillamook, Oregon to learn more about the ocean and its inhabitants.
One student asks “why is one shell spiky and the other one smooth?”
Kevin responds by challenging the student with deeper questions that focus on the animal’s characteristics and habitat.
While Kevin, Christian and Lisa teach science, other students head outside to learn about stewardship. Stewardship, using sound science to protect and manage people and resources, is another component of NOAA’s mission. The Harvesting Systems Unit helps develop and test more efficient and environmentally friendly gear used to catch fish and other seafood. For example, fishermen are happy to let other marine species like sea turtles escape from nets, leaving more room for the shrimp they are trying to catch and helping sea turtles at the same time.
Provide national fisheries gear engineering support in the development, fishery-dependent assessment and implementation of more efficient and environmentally friendly fishing gear;
By 1978, all five species of sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico were on endangered or threatened species list, in no small part because of shrimp trawling methods. Sea turtles, who need to take a breath of air at least every 55 minutes, would get caught in the nets and die. NOAA responded to this problem by designing new equipment and gear meant to decrease the amount of by-catch, or other living things, shrimp trawlers and fisherman pulled up in their nets. A Turtle Excluder Device, or TED, allows sea turtles to escape from shrimp nets. Learn more about sea turtles and what you can do to help them through NOAA’s great educational resources.
Andre DeBose, Fisheries Biologist, educates, inspires, and engages students of all ages as they learn what it feels like to be an endangered sea turtle crawling out of a shrimp net through the TED.
Students get caught in the trawl net…
…and escape safely through the TED.
The three components of NOAAs service, science, and stewardship mission are inseparable. While most scientists work in the field or educate others, the scientists in National Seafood Inspection Laboratory (NSIL) use good science to make sure the seafood we eat is good.
Angela Ruple is the Lead Analyst at NSIL, keeping a close protected eye on any seafood that is tested for hazards like Salmonella and chemical contaminants. She works with other government agencies and encourages food safety education programs such as the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s FightBac program, which uses fun games and other tools, to educate us about food hazards like bacteria.
Shannara shows me her protein banding program.
Here she explains how Nemo takes a bite out of fish to help her identify the species.
Shannara Lynn is one of NOAA’s seafood detectives. Untrustworthy seafood dealers may sell fish that are easy to catch as more expensive fish. They will take a piece of less expensive ray or shark and pretend it is a scallop. But each species of fish has DNA and protein markers that make them unique. Looking at proteins, Shannara can run 72 fish in 1 day to see if they match their label, but only 8 fish in 2 days using DNA analysis. So, stores like Kroger, with lots of fish to test, might want to screen with protein banding first to make sure they aren’t getting hoodwinked.
Cheryl Lassitter, Lead Chemist at NSIL, (pictured below) combined her mathematical, technological, and scientific skills, to make a library that makes the protein identification of each fish easy to find in a computer program.
Cheryl uses this machine to look closely at how molecules act. Based upon how the microscopic parts fall down the white tube behind her, after they are thrown up, she can find out if illegal drugs were used to make a fish live longer!
While Cheryl usually uses only the most advanced technology, I quickly snapped this picture of her using a paper and pen.
All senses are used at NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program (SIP) to test fish. Susan Linn, Approving Officer for SIP, travels around the nation to teach seafood inspection testers to use the same vocabulary and methods when testing fish with their noses. If it smells like “dirty socks,” it’s gone bad.
Patience and Tenacity
Patience and tenacity do not start with an “S,” but these two life skills are what fuel the “Science, Service, and Stewardship,” three part mission of NOAA aboard the Pisces.
When told there was a problem that would delay our departure, I asked to “see it.” What I learned over the next ten days is that science requires precision, complex tools, experts working in teams, and lots of money. Brent Jones, Chief Engineer and Augmenter William Osborn, showed patience and tenacity as they helped me understand some of the unique features of the power system for the Pisces.
CLICK ON PICTURES BELOW TO MAKE THEM BIGGER AND TO READ ABOUT PARTS OF THE POWER SYSTEM.
There are four Catterpillar diesel engines that turn the generators.
Here, Dana Reid and I take a break at the generator that produces AC electricty.
The SCR drives smooth out pulses and clean up the power. The 600 volts of electricity and millions of wires and plugs discourages the most advanced plugologist, someone who messes with the plugs to solve a problem.
For fisheries science, the boat has to be quiet in the water. A simple diesel engine would have been easy to fix, but would scare away many of the fish that scientists are trying to study. Second graders use their “fox feet” in our outdoor classroom, and Pisces scientists use a stealthy diesel electric engine, to sneak up on their specimens. The unique ship requires experts capable of finding problems in a maze of technology without major calamity.
Once again, the more questions I asked, the more questions I had. The problems were in the SCR drives, behind big gray panels. Diodes convert AC power to DC power and the SCR drives smooth out and clean up the pulses of power.
Somewhere in a room of grey closets filled with live wires, pulsing with 600 volts of electricity, was the problem that kept Pisces from sailing. As long as I worked as a Teacher in Port, the problem hid like a second grader after the recess whistle blew.
The Reef Fish Survey has four parts or legs. During the first leg, the motor died a couple times while at sea. Fortunately, the crew was able to shut down the engine and restart it. If something like this happened when pulling into a tight space, the ramifications could be scary.
Experts took a systematic approach to solving the intermittent problem, complicated by a limited budget, with equanimity. Yet they could not solve the problem fast enough to go on leg two or three of the survey. Now, Kevin Rademacher, the Field Party Chief Scientist has to negotiate other ways to collect the data required for the last two legs of the survey. Junior Officer Nathan Gillman summed it up as follows, “with science, nothing goes according to plan, but it gets done.”
While Pisces ultimately never left port, I imagine that I learned a broader scope of the role NOAA plays in protecting and managing our ocean resources on land than I would have at sea. Thank you, Kevin Rademacher, for showing me the port side of NOAA while juggling a crazy, changing schedule, and teaching me about many intriguing aspects of fisheries science. I also send a big thank you to the scientists in the lab who have inspired me to continue asking curious questions, and to encourage students to embrace science and technology. Thanks to the ship engineers who showed me how the ship works, and sometimes doesn’t. Thank you Keigm and Eric Richards, for showing me the path less traveled.
Thank you to Daeh Kujak, Second Grade Teacher, Karen Thenell, Principal, South Prairie Elementary, and our superintendent Randy Schild for being so flexible and supportive, allowing me to become inspired, ocean literate, and an advocate for our limited natural resources. Thank you TAS administrators for creating a life changing program that inspires teachers and students by getting us out in the field with scientists. It takes the whole team to manage our limited ocean resources, and to educate our leaders of tomorrow. Thanks to the team, I can see the significant, beneficial difference in how I learn and teach.