Tom Jenkins: Introductory Post, April 6, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Jenkins

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

April 10 – 27, 2018

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey

Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast

Date: April 6, 2018

Introduction

Now that word is out about my NOAA Teacher at Sea selection, I am being asked many questions about my upcoming research mission.  The truth of the matter is that I am unsure exactly what to expect. While the administrators of the program have done a great job of communicating information, NOAA has many different objectives.  Even the missions, which are annual events, appear to be unique experiences as there are so many variables involved when doing research at sea.

One thing I know for sure is that almost 3 weeks out at sea seems like a long time, especially for someone that has lived in Ohio for his entire life.  Clark County, Ohio (where I teach 8th Grade Science and STEM at Greenon Jr./Sr. High School) is probably what most people think of when they think of “Midwestern living.” A mixture of agriculture and fading industry, we are a close-knit community, which is something John Cougar Mellencamp would find familiar.  While we have plenty of creeks and lakes, many of my students have never seen the ocean. I have been fortunate enough to go on a handful of cruises, but have never been at sea for more than 10 consecutive days, and those included stops along the way.  I am fairly confident I will do fine, but I am also packing motion sickness medication to be on the safe side. Fingers crossed!

Greenon Jr/Sr High School

Greenon Jr/Sr High School

I will live aboard the NOAA research vessel Henry Bigelow (Follow this link for additional information).  This 209 feet long, state-of-the-art, research vessel is likely a giant step up from what you may have seen on “Deadliest Catch.”  While it is definitely built for collecting fish and other biomass, it conducts trawl sampling (think of a long, specialized net that is dragged behind the ship).  NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow is equipped with many advanced features including a modern wet lab which allows scientists (and me!) to sort, weigh, measure, and examine the catch.  This information is then added to NOAA’s extensive database which provides our country’s scientists with valuable information regarding the status of the organisms that reside within the ocean.

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NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

Another question that I am frequently asked is, “What about your students?”  The best part about this arrangement is, not only will I be immersed in authentic scientific research (which will add value to my educational practice), but the use of Google Classroom will allow my students to share my adventures from the field.  In addition to frequent online updates where I will answer questions and discuss ongoing research and associated phenomena, my students will use NOAA educational resources to learn more about our oceans and the life within them.

As I prepare to leave in a few days, I am full of emotion.  I am obviously very excited to be afforded this unique opportunity.  I love travel, adventure, and learning, so this research cruise will be a perfect fit.  I will work alongside 37 people (sailors, fisherman, scientists, and engineers to name a few) who are very good at what they do for a living.  I can’t wait to pick their brains to learn how I can incorporate their knowledge into my classroom. All of that being said, I will definitely miss both my family and my students.  I look forward to returning home and sharing my experiences with them.

Please check back over the next few weeks as I will write additional blogs regarding my NOAA Teacher at Sea adventure.  I would love to make this blog series interactive, so if you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below.