NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 26 – August 8, 2013
Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey
Geographical Location: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 15, 2013
My dad can often be heard saying “it takes so little to amuse you.”
I’m generally excited about everything – a vacation to Hood River, Oregon, a night in watching reruns of The West Wing, a perfectly delicious homemade lasagna, watching Danny MacAskill’s Imaginate videos. There is really no limit to the things that make me happy and excited. It should come as no surprise then that when I was accepted to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I first called my parents and excitedly yelled into the phone “I’m going out to seeeaaaaaa!”
I am early in my teaching career and to have such an incredible opportunity at this time is something to truly be excited about. I began teaching Language Arts in Baltimore City Public Schools five years ago. I currently teach seventh and eighth Language Arts at Armistead Gardens Elementary/Middle School. One of my favorite things about being a Language Arts teacher is that it means I can do so many different things with my students as we grow in reading, writing, and thinking critically.
Some of you may be wondering “What the heck is a Language Arts teacher doing on this science research cruise?” I have many passions and environmental science is one of them. Two years ago I began teaching a semester-long unit on human impact and climate change. We started with water. For a few days, we became the water cycle so we could understand how water works, whether humans are here on Earth or not. And then we looked at how humans change the water cycle by changing the landscape and adding cities. Then we studied groundwater and water contamination by heading to the science lab and building groundwater models. Following water we went on land – looking at landforms, the most common land uses, and looking deeply at the costs and benefits of industrial vs. organic agriculture. After that, we took some time to really understand plastic – how it is used and how it breaks down. We spent a week looking deeply at what plastic is doing to our oceans, reading “Swirling Seas of Plastic” from ScienceNewsforKids.com. This was a really emotionally powerful unit for my classes as we looked at numerous pictures of animals whose lives are imperiled by plastic trash. Before winter break we finished up with looking at oil – what it is and where it comes from, drilling, and oil spills, even simulating an oil spill and clean up with pie plates filled with water, which I then poured vegetable oil into and challenged the students to clean up. Finally we put the pieces together and looked at climate change when we returned from break.
We read practical informational texts along with Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, which gave my students a glimpse of what a future looks like if we keep exploiting our natural resouces. We asked questions of each other and ourselves about what it all meant in our Baltimore community and for our nation and our world. When it was all done, each student chose a unique topic connected to one of our main ideas (water, land, plastic, oil, and climate change) and created their own informational text. Each class created a magazine. Few projects have been more exciting to be a part of or made me prouder of the finished product.
This unit of study (and a helpful friend) is what motivated me to apply for this hands-on experience at sea. I am looking forward to spending two weeks in the Gulf of Mexico, a region to which I have never been, doing this important work. My cruise will focus on coastal shark and red snapper populations. We will be catching sharks and red snappers, implanting tracking devices as well as taking measurements, before releasing them back to the wild. We will also be testing the water for temperature, salinity, and depth. The idea of being a part of a group doing this kind of research makes me even more excited than when the final Harry Potter book was released. And that is saying something.
As my time at sea draws nearer, I get more and more excited about how I will incorporate everything I learn and the research that I am a part of into next year’s science-based semester: Ecosystems In and Out of Balance. My seventh graders, who will soon be my eighth graders, eagerly await my updates about sharks and my adventures at sea. Many have promised to follow my blog and track the ship online.
Aside from teaching, my life includes the most amazing short-legged, long-bodied, huge-headed dog, named Maddox, a Husky-Corgi mix. I adopted Maddox during my second year of teaching and we have had some wonderful adventures together. Each summer we leave the Baltimore heat for the lakes of Michigan, where I grew up, and can spend as much time as we can doing the things we love. We walk, hike, paddle, and play. As a lover of Lake Michigan and a child described as a fish growing up, I am sure that this time in the Gulf of Mexico will only make my love of the water greater. And while I’m sad Maddox can’t come on this grand adventure with me, I know that when I return, my fluffy boy will be all kisses and snuggles and no hard feelings.
I hope you will join me on this adventure by following my blog and taking an interest in the research I will be a part of on the Oregon II. Please feel free to post questions in the comments below!