Kristin Hennessy-McDonald: Something Incredible, September 16, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kristin Hennessy-McDonald

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 15 – 30, 2018

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: September 16, 2018

 

Personal Introduction

Greetings to those following my adventure from afar.  My name is Kristin Hennessy-McDonald, but my students and fellow faculty call me Dr. Hen-Mc.  I am so excited to have been selected to be a member of the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program aboard the Oregon II.  I am the science lead at T-STEM Academy at East High School, where I teach Honors Biology.  My path to the classroom was far from straight.  I attended the University of Notre Dame, where I earned a B.S. in Biology.  I then continued my academic path at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, where I earned my PhD in Cell Physiology.  After spending a little less than 3 years at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I had an epiphany.  I found that I enjoyed sharing my passion about science more than doing research at the bench.  I made the decision to transition to the classroom and have not looked back.  8 years later, I have found my home at T-STEM, and my family in Team East.

The journey to boarding the Oregon II has been a long one, but well worth it.  When my boss brought the opportunity to me, I applied with hope.  When I got the acceptance letter, I gasped and started jumping up and down in my classroom.  My students were confused, but then excited when they found out that I had gotten this opportunity.  I teach many of the same students who were in that class, and they have all been sharing in my excitement over the past months as I have prepared for this adventure.

I have always been fascinated by water.  From the time I was a small child, my parents would have to watch carefully when we went to the pool or the beach, because I was liable to jump right in.  As I grew up, that love of water has remained, and I spend time each summer on the Gulf.  I am thrilled to have a chance to study ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico, and see things that I only read about in National Geographic magazine.

Mark and Kristin Gulf

Me and my husband in Gulfport, MS

I have passed my love of water on to my daughter.  Beth is the same way I was when I was young.  She wants to run into the water, to play in the waves.  She sees the beauty of the sea, watching dolphins alongside the boat when we take trips to Ship Island out of Gulfport, MS.  I look forward to sharing my adventures at sea with her.  I am sad to leave her and my husband for two weeks, but grateful that they waved me off on my adventures with a smile.

Beth Gulf

Beth at Ship Island building a sandcastle

I began my career as a teacher because I wanted to share my love of science with young people.  I dreamed of someday being a child’s gateway to the wonders and knowledge of science.  While none of my students have stood on a desk reciting Whitman, some of my students have allowed my love of science to guide them along science career paths.  When I joined Team East at T-STEM Academy at East High School, I knew that I was in a place that would foster the idea of learning by doing.  I wanted to exemplify that going on this trip.  I cannot wait to bring all of the knowledge and experiences of this trip back to my classroom.  Instead of just sharing case studies of Gulf Coast ecosystems, I will be able to share what I learned as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

 

Personal Quote of the day

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
~Carl Sagan

 

Did You Know?

Red Snappers are considered to be one of the top predators in the Gulf of Mexico?

 

Question of the day

Given that red snapper hatch at 0.0625 inches long, and can reach sizes of 16 inches within two years, do you think their cells have a long or short G1 phase?

 

Justin Garritt: Preparing to Sail, September 1, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Justin Garritt

(Almost) aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

September 2-15, 2018

Geographic Area of Cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon

Date: September 1, 2018

About My School and I:

My name is Justin Garritt and I teach mathematics in Baltimore City at KIPP Ujima Academy. KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program and is a nationwide charter school network. Most of the 224 KIPP schools serve in communities that have been historically left behind. My awesome middle school serves the best 750 5th through 8th graders in the world. Sadly, due to recent budget cuts throughout our city, science programs have been cut. Three years ago, our school reduced our students’

KIPP Ujima Academy

2017 Day 1: KIPP Ujima Academy in Baltimore

access to science in half. Students now only receive science for half the year. Many of our world’s most important problems require amazing and informed scientists and our kids have to be a part of those solutions. As a mathematics teacher who has the privilege of having my students for double the time of our science team, it is crucial that I make cross-curricular connections to science in my classroom. As a lifelong learner, I can’t wait to get on board a National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) ship so I can investigate new and creative ways to infuse all the research I will be doing into my curriculum. I can’t wait for students at my school to see me working among the most talented scientists in the world. I can’t wait for my students at my school to picture themselves someday working as scientists with NOAA and solving our world’s most important problems that involve our precious environment. I can’t wait for my future students to get excited when learning statistics, scaling, and ratios with actual data I collected while sailing in the Pacific.

 

To My Baltimore and New York Supporters:

For those of you reading from Baltimore or my hometown, let me tell you a bit about what I am doing.

Last Fall I was sent information about a program called the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association Teacher at Sea Program (NOAA TAS) from a friend and mentor of mine, Amy Wilson. She knew how much I loved ships, water, and exciting adventures and thought I would be interested in this unique experience that could benefit my students and school. NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program gives K-12 teachers across the country insight into our ocean planet & increases understanding of earth system science through real research projects. Teachers are paired with wonderful scientists across a variety of ecosystems across the planet in order to learn from them so they can take back their knowledge gained to their school communities. Fast forward six months and here I am sailing aboard a NOAA ship named Bell A. Shimada. It sails from Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon and conducts scientific experiments throughout its journey. I will be writing about these over the next few weeks. Throughout the trip we will be using scientific equipment and techniques that I never knew existed. I will be studying and learning about things I never heard of. I will be working side by side with scientists to learn their exact roles. I will be interviewing people throughout the ship about what a career is like on board a NOAA ship. The whole time I will be posting updates and pictures on this blog. I hope you will join me on this journey.

When I return to KIPP Baltimore, I hope that I will be better equipped to create epic math lessons that are grade level and common core aligned but infuse the data I collected on board Bell A. Shimada. I hope my ratios and proportions unit and my statistics unit come alive for my future scholars. I hope that I can teach my students about the incredible careers involving science with the NOAA so that a few consider it for their life path. Personally, I hope I can be more educated on some of the most pressing environmental issues the future of our world faces.

Although I am nervous about my lack of scientific knowledge, I am so excited to participate in this once in a life time opportunity for myself and my future students back in Baltimore.

The next time you will hear from me, I will be off the coast of Seattle surrounded by water, scientists, and fish.

Justin

 

Ashley Cosme: Medusa and Loggerheads, and Sharks, OH MY! – August 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Ashley Cosme

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 31 – September 14, 2018

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 19th, 2018

Weather: The weather in Crown Point, IN is 80 degrees and sunny!

 

Introduction:

According to Greek mythology, coral first originated in the Red Sea.  The story has been told that after Perseus, a Greek hero, beheaded Medusa, he set her head down on a clump of seaweed to wash his hands.  The blood from Medusa’s head soaked into the seaweed forming what we know today as coral. Ironically, coral polyps contain tentacles reminiscent of the snakes consuming Medusa’s head.  I am lucky enough to have my own piece of Coral.  Three and half years ago my husband and I had our first child and named her Coral.  The only aspect of Coral’s life that is even a slight resemblance of Medusa is her crazy curly hair!   As we know, coral in the ocean is a beautiful animal that houses thousands of marine organisms.  Similarly, my daughter has an enormous heart for living creatures, and her curiosity for the natural world inspires me every day.

We also have a son named Kai.  In Hawaiian, Kai means ‘the sea’, and in Japanese one of its meanings is ‘ocean.’  I love watching Kai grow daily, and learn new ways to survive having Coral as his big sister. Although I will have to say a heartbreaking temporary goodbye to Coral and Kai, I will be embarking on a journey of a lifetime.  My expedition starts in Pascagoula, Mississippi on August 31st aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II, where I will participate in a shark/red snapper longline survey in the Gulf of Mexico.

CoCo and Kai

Coral (CoCo) and Kai on the 4th of July 2018

NOAA Vessel

NOAA Ship Oregon II (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

I have always been fascinated by the water.  Growing up near Lake Michigan, family trips consisted of going to the beach and searching for “seashells” along the shore.  My passion for the ocean also began during my childhood, which was sparked by my interest in turtles.  I was a captivated 15 year old when I saw a sea turtle for the first time as I snorkeled on a patch reef near Key Largo.  The speed at which the juvenile loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) glided through the water was astonishing.  I was fortunate to capture a few pictures of the critically threatened animal as it sped by, which was then painted onto a beautiful canvas by a dear friend of mine.

That moment inspired and motivated me to study the ocean, and I went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. During my time at Eckerd College, I had the opportunity to intern for the University of Florida’s Cape San Blas sea turtle surveying program.  It was during this internship that I had my first indirect encounter with a shark.  Well, not really an actual shark, but Yolanda, a nesting loggerhead sea turtle.  I first met Yolanda in the summer of 2004.  She was a healthy adult sea turtle and a regular nester on Cape San Blas, as her tag had been recorded since the 90’s on the exact same beach that I first saw her.  What I have failed to mention is that she had an enormous shark bite through her carapace and plastron just above her right rear flipper.  Remarkably, the shark missed all major organs and the bite had healed completely into a perfect mandible mold.  Besides Yolanda’s shark bite, and small reef sharks that I’ve seen diving, I never thought I would experience an up close meeting with a shark.  For two weeks straight I will be assisting NOAA scientists with catching and tagging a variety of different species of sharks.

leatherback

I stumbled upon on this endangered nesting leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriaceaone) one morning on Juno Beach, FL.

I am most excited for the impact that the Teacher at Sea adventure will have on me personally, and as an educator at Crown Point High School.  I hope to take what I learn while aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II and aide my students in better hypothesis-generation, experimental testing, and presentation skills to cultivate major changes in their approach to scientific research.  Ultimately, I can’t wait to share my experience with the Crown Point community, and continue to create an atmosphere where kids are excited about learning science!

Martha Loizeaux: Sea You Later!, August 18, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Martha Loizeaux

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

August 22 – August 31, 2018

 

Mission: Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Date: August 18, 2018

 

Welcome

Hello from the Florida Keys!   I am so excited to be embarking on my Teacher at Sea excursion in just 4 days.  I will be joining the crew aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter to participate in a Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey in the Northeast Atlantic, departing from Rhode Island and returning to port in Virginia.  I am looking forward to working side by side with NOAA scientists, sharing knowledge with my students, and having the experience of a lifetime!

My students at Ocean Studies Charter School are prepared to follow me along on my journey via this blog and our online classroom.  They have even practiced their own Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey of the Hardwood Hammock forest surrounding our school!

I hope you’ll join us in this adventure and check back here for more blog posts in a few days!

20517

The view from my kayak as I lead Ocean Studies Charter School students on a seagrass investigation.

 

Weather Data from the NOAA weather station at Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys

Molasses buoy

The NOAA weather station at Molasses Reef off of Key Largo. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

  • Latitude: 25.130 N
  • Longitude: 80.406 W
  • Water Temperature: 85.6◦F
  • Wind Speed: 11 knots
  • Wind Direction: ESE
  • Air Temperature: 84.4◦F
  • Atmospheric Pressure: 30.13 in
  • Sky: Partly Cloudy

 

Science and Technology Log

 I am very much looking forward to participating in the Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  At Ocean Studies Charter School, we do projects to monitor the seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef ecosystems each year while out in the field.  It will be interesting to see how NOAA scientists conduct these surveys; what tools and equipment they use, what animals and plants they will find, and what aspects of water quality they will measure.

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The ecosystem we will be monitoring on the mission is called the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (NES LME).  You can just call it the “Northeast Shelf.”  This ecosystem spans the coast and out to sea from North Carolina up to Maine.  Scientists want to know a lot about this part of the ocean because it is very important for something we love to do here in the Keys:  FISHING.  Fishing is fun, but it’s also the way that many people in our country get their food and make money to live.  Fishing is a major industry along the east coast, so the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem is considered a very important natural resource that we need to protect.

Northeast Shelf Ecosystem

A map of the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem. Image courtesy of NOAA.

How can scientists understand and protect this resource?  It starts with Ecosystem Monitoring.

An ecosystem is a place where living things and non-living things work together like a big machine.  Each part of the machine, both living and non-living, is important for the whole system to work.  For example, in an ocean ecosystem, every type fish is needed for the food web to function.  Clean water and plenty of sunlight is needed for the ocean plants and phytoplankton to be healthy.  The ocean plants are needed for the invertebrates that the fish eat… and the cycle continues!  In order for scientists to understand the fish that are important to us, they need to understand EVERY piece of the ecosystem since it is all connected.  That’s why we will be measuring lots of different things on our mission!

ocean ecosystem

An ocean ecosystem has many important parts and pieces. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Monitoring means “observing and checking something over a period of time”.  NOAA scientists observe, measure, and check on this ecosystem 6-7 times per year.  Monitoring an ecosystem lets people know WHAT is going on within the ecosystem.  Scientists can use this information to research WHY things are happening the way they are.  Then, they can use modeling to find out WHAT might happen in the future.  This helps the government make decisions about our precious resources and make plans for the future to keep our oceans healthy and our fish populations strong.

Rosette deployment

There are many types of tools scientists use to monitor ecosystems. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

On our mission, scientists will collect plankton, invertebrates, and fish with special nets to count and measure them.  They will look and listen for marine mammals and sea birds.  They will take measurements of the water such as temperature, salinity (amount of salt), nutrient levels, and ocean acidification.  These measurements will help them understand the quality of water and changes of the climate in this area.  What other aspects of the ecosystem do you think are important to measure?

Bongo net deployment

Special nets are used to collect and study plankton. Photo courtesy of NOAA

I can’t wait to see how we will take all of these measurements and what we will see out there!

 

Personal Log

I am proud to call myself the Marine Science Teacher at Ocean Studies Charter School in Tavernier, Florida Keys.  We are a small public charter elementary school, focused on the surrounding marine environment and place-based learning.  I teach science to all grades (K-5) and lead our weekly field labs.  I even drive the school bus!  We use the term “field labs” instead of “field trips” to highlight that we are not simply visiting a place.  We are using the outdoors as our learning laboratory, working on projects, collecting data, and partnering with local organizations on our excursions.  We study the local habitats of the shallow seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and coral reefs that we are so lucky to have in our backyard.

students at beach

Taking students to the beach to study shallow water ecosystems.

Upon my return from my Teacher at Sea mission, we will be hosting the grand opening of our new Marine Discovery Laboratory in the center of our school!  After teaching marine science in an outdoor classroom for the past 7 years, I am excited for the opportunities that our state-of-the-art indoor lab will bring (no more visits from the local iguanas)!

Lionfish

Learning about lionfish in the lab.

My students impress and amaze me every day with their ideas and discoveries.  I have watched them create and present model ecosystems, examine hurricane protection ideas by studying animal survival, and help scientists tag sharks to learn more about their populations.  At the start of this new school year, I cannot wait to see what ideas they will come up with next!

Everglades

Leading students on a tour of Everglades National Park.

Students fishing

Sustainable fishing with students in the field.

It will be hard to be away from my family, especially my two awesome sons, ages 6 and 9.  I hope they enjoy following along with Mom’s blog and that they are inspired by my experience!

I originally hail from New Hampshire but have lived in Florida for all my adult life.  Prior to teaching, I worked on boats as an environmental educator and earned my captain’s license along the way.  I have been a SCUBA instructor, marine aquarist, and guide for summer travel adventure camps.  As a teacher, I have been lucky enough to also participate in “Teacher Under the Sea” through Florida International University.  In this program, I assisted scientists under the ocean at the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory right here in the Florida Keys.  Throughout my life, I have loved the ocean.  One day, I hope to sail out to sea and travel the world on my own boat.

diving

Diving outside the Aquarius Undersea Lab during “Teacher Under the Sea”.

But for now, I’m not sure exactly what to expect in terms of living aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  I look forward to sharing adventures and stories of life at sea!  Stay tuned to this blog and check for my updates in a few days.  Sea you soon!

 

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter was named after an American marine biologist and fisheries scientist who was considered a pioneer in the field of fisheries ecology.

The ship was originally built in 1989 as the U.S. Naval Ship Relentless and was transferred to NOAA in 1993.

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

 

Word of the Day

 Ichthyoplankton – The planktonic (drifting) eggs and larvae of fish.

When scientists tow for plankton, studying the icthyoplankton helps them understand fish populations.

Fish Egg

An example of icthyoplankton. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

 

Mark Van Arsdale, How Big is Alaska Anyway? August 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Van Arsdale

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

September 3–14, 2018

Mission: Bering Sea Juvenile Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Date: August 13, 2018

Latitude: 61.3293° N
Longitude: 149.5680° W
Air Temperature: 56° F
Sky: Rain (typical weather for August in AK)

Cascade Glacier

Me standing in front of the rapidly melting Cascade Glacier, Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound.

Personal Introduction

My name is Mark Van Arsdale.  I am a high school teacher in Eagle River, Alaska.  Eagle River is a bedroom community just outside of Anchorage.  At ERHS, I teach AP Biology, Forensic Science, Oceanography, and Marine Biology.  I will be aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson as a participant in the 2018 NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

It’s raining right now, and I am sitting in my kitchen contemplating the start of the new school year next week and the start of a new adventure next month.   In three weeks I will fly from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to join the scientists and crew of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Even though I will never leave the state, I will fly 796 miles, the same distance as flying from New York to Chicago.  Alaska is an incredibly large state, almost 600,000 square miles of land and 34,000 miles of coastline.  My adventure will take me into the Bering Sea.  Although I have never been there, I have a connection to the Bering Sea.  Like many other Alaskans’, much of the salmon and other seafood my family eats spends all or part of its lifecycle traveling through the rich waters of the Bering Sea.

Alaska map

At 591,000 square miles, Alaska is as wide as the lower 48 states and larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined. Copyright Alaska Sea Adventures.

Alaska and Alaskans are highly dependent on the oceans. Commercial fishing in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea produces more groundfish (pollock, cod, rockfish, sablefish, and flatfish) than any other place in the country, close to 2 million metric tons per year. In 2013 that was valued at over $2 billion.  Fishing is consistently Alaska’s top non-government employer and after oil, seafood represents our largest export.  Thousands of residents participate every year in subsistence fishing, and hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Alaska each year, many with the hopes of catching a wild salmon or halibut (facts from the Alaska Sea Grant).

My classroom is less than five miles from the ocean (Cook Inlet Estuary), yet many of the students I teach have never seen the ocean.  They may not know the importance of the ocean to our state.  When I teach Oceanography and Marine Biology, I work very hard to connect my students to both the science and industry of the oceans.  Not just so that my students can understand what kind of work that scientist and fishermen do, but also so that they will understand the value of the work do.

I have been in the classroom for twenty years, and in the last few years I have seen more and more students entering my classroom who see no value in science.  Science matters!  The oceans and our relationship to the oceans matter!  I am hopeful that working on board the Oscar Dyson with a team of scientists is going to help me make those connections better.

Have I mentioned yet that I love fish?  I love to study fish, teach about fish, catch fish, cook fish, eat fish, watch fish.  So I am pretty excited about spending two weeks on a research cruise dedicated to fish research, and working with some of the Scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

IMG_8559

A Quillback rockfish caught in Prince William Sound.

 

Anne Krauss: Once Upon a Maritime, August 4, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – August 25, 2018

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 4, 2018

Introductory Personal Log

I’m thrilled to be joining NOAA Ship Oregon II for the second leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey. The adventure of a lifetime begins in Canaveral, Florida and concludes in Pascagoula, Mississippi. For two weeks, we’ll be studying sharks, red snapper, and other marine life in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Scientists will collect data on fish populations to find out more about their distribution, age, weight, length, reproduction, and other important information. Along the way, we’ll also sample water quality and collect other environmental data. Learning more about these creatures and their surroundings can help to keep their habitats safe and thriving.

This exciting opportunity is the next chapter in my lifelong appreciation for sharks and the sea. During a formative visit to the ocean at age three, I quickly acquired a taste for salt water, seafaring, and sharks. I saw my first shark, a hammerhead, in the New England Aquarium, and I was transfixed. I wanted to know everything about the water and what lived beneath the surface.

After discovering nonfiction in fourth grade, I could access the depths through reading. I was riveted to books about deep-sea creatures and pioneering undersea explorers. The more I learned, the more curious I became. As a younger student, I never indulged my aquatic interests in any formal academic sense beyond prerequisites because of my epic, giant-squid-versus-whale-like struggle with math. Because I was much stronger in humanities and social sciences, I pursued a predictable path into writing, literature, and education.

As a Literacy Specialist, I support developing readers and writers in grades K-5 by providing supplemental Language Arts instruction (Response to Intervention). To motivate and inspire my students, I share my zeal for the ocean, incorporating developmentally appropriate topics to teach requisite Language Arts skills and strategies.

In 2011, I initiated an ocean literacy collaboration with undersea explorer Michael Lombardi and Ocean Opportunity Inc. so that I could better answer my students’ questions about marine science careers and marine life. Our first meeting involved swimming with blue sharks offshore, and I knew I needed more experiences like that in my life. From chumming to helping with the equipment to observing pelagic sharks without a cage, I loved every aspect. This life-changing experience (both the collaboration and the shark encounter) transformed my instruction, reigniting my curiosity and ambition. Our educator-explorer partnership has inspired and motivated my students for the past seven years. After supporting and following my colleague’s field work with my students, I wanted a field experience of my own so that I can experience living, researching, and working at sea firsthand.

Although my fascination with all things maritime began at an early age, working closely with someone in the field transformed my life. Instead of tumbling, I feel like Alice plunging into a watery wonderland, chasing after a neoprene-clad rabbit to learn more. Finding someone who was willing to share their field experience and make it accessible gave me the confidence to revisit my childhood interests through any available, affordable means: online courses, documentaries, piles of nonfiction books, social media, workshops, symposiums, aquaria, snorkeling, and the occasional, cherished seaside visit.

We co-authored and published a case study about our collaboration in Current: The Journal of Marine Education, the peer-reviewed journal of the National Marine Educators Association (Fall/Winter 2016). We wrote about bringing the discovery of a new species of mesophotic clingfish to fourth and fifth grade struggling readers. Since a student-friendly text about the fish did not exist, I wrote one for my students at their instructional reading level, incorporating supportive nonfiction text features.

It’s reinvigorating to switch roles from teacher to student. Ultimately, this unconventional path has made me a more effective, empathetic educator. My students witness how I employ many of the same literacy skills and strategies that I teach. By challenging myself with material outside my area of expertise, I am better able to anticipate and accommodate my students’ challenges and misconceptions in Language Arts. When comprehension of a scientific research paper does not come to me easily on the first, second, or even third attempt, I can better understand my students’ occasional reluctance and frustration in Language Arts. At times, learning a different field reminds me of learning a second language. Because I’m such a word nerd, I savor learning the discourse and technical terminology for scientific phenomena. Acquiring new content area vocabulary is rewarding and delicious. It requires word roots and context clues (and sometimes, trial and error), and I model this process for my students.

Being selected for Teacher at Sea is an incredible opportunity that required determination, grit, and perseverance. Although my curiosity and excitement come very naturally, the command over marine science content has not. I’ve had to be an active reader and work hard in order to acquire and understand new concepts. Sometimes, the scientific content challenges me to retrain my language arts brain while simultaneously altering my perception of myself as a learner. Ultimately, that is what I want for my students: to see themselves as ever-curious, ever-improving readers, writers, critical thinkers, and hopefully, lifelong learners.

I am so grateful for the opportunities to learn and grow. I deeply appreciate the support, interest, and encouragement I’ve received from friends, family, and colleagues along the way. I will chronicle my experiences on NOAA Ship Oregon II while also capturing how the scientific research may translate to the elementary school classroom. Please share your questions and comments in the comments section below, and I will do my best to reply from sea. My students sent me off with many thoughtful questions to address, and I’ll share the answers in subsequent posts.

Did You Know?

Pelagic fish have bodies designed for long-distance swimming. With their long pectoral fins, the blue shark (Prionace glauca) is highly migratory, traveling great distances across oceans.

A blue shark swims near the surface.

Look carefully: This graceful blue shark was the first shark I saw in the open ocean. Swimming with them was exhilarating!

Recommended Reading

The cover of a children's nonfiction book shows a scientist diving near a shark and coral reef with an autonomous underwater vehicle in the background.

An engaging read-aloud for younger readers.

For a simplified introduction to how scientists study sharks, I recommend the picture book How to Spy on a Shark written by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Francisca Marquez. This read-aloud science book portrays the process of catching, tagging, and releasing mako sharks. The book includes shark facts as well as an introduction to tagging and tracking technology. For more information on how scientists use underwater robots such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to study sharks: https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/18whitesharkcafe/welcome.html

Michelle Greene: Getting Ready for a Big Adventure, July 18, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Michelle Greene

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

July 19 – August 3, 2018

 

Mission: Cetacean Survey

Geographic Area: Northeast U.S. Atlantic Coast

Date: July 18, 2018

 

Latitude: 34° 18.967′ N

Longitude: 79° 52.047′ W

Temperature: 89° F (32° C)

Tomorrow is the big day!  I am getting ready to board the plane from Florence, SC to Charlotte, NC to Providence, RI.  I have never been to Rhode Island, so this is going to be a bucket list activity to keep adding states to my history.  Rhode Island will make state number 24…almost half way!

I teach in a very rural high school in Lamar, South Carolina which is approximately 90 miles from Myrtle Beach.  Lamar High School has about 280 students.  This year we had a graduating class of 52 students.  I teach Calculus, Statistics, and Algebra 2 Honors.

Teaching statistics is the main reason I applied to the Teacher at Sea program.  I wanted to give my students some real world experience with statistics.  I try to create my own data for students, but I end up using the same data from the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major League Baseball, etc.  I had one student a couple of years ago in Algebra 2 Honors who is a weather lover.  His favorite website is NOAA, and he would give me the daily weather or hurricane updates.  Any time we had a baseball game, he would be able to tell me if we were going to be able to play the game.  Being able to provide him and his classmates projects using data from something he loves will help me to reach that one student.  Hopefully, I might even spark interest in other students.

Helping my students to become statisticians is the main reason I applied; however, I also applied to challenge myself.  Throughout my life, I have not been the kind of person who deals well with creepy crawly things.  Being on a ship on the ocean will definitely force me to deal with that.  I want to do my very best to get involved in all kinds of neat activities.  I hope “Cool Beans!” will be my daily saying.

I am really looking forward to working with the scientists on the Gordon Gunter.  Having read as much as I can about the Passive Acoustic Research Group has helped me to understand a little of what we will be doing on our 15-day journey.  I hope that I can help them to further their research to learn the patterns that cetaceans use to communicate with each other!