NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
May 6-16, 2013
Mission: Hydrographic surveys between Ketchikan and Petersburg, Alaska
Date: April 24, 2013
I am absolutely thrilled at this truly unique opportunity to join a team of scientists aboard NOAA’s research vessel Rainier conducting hydrographic surveys through the Teacher at Sea program.
I am a teacher and have been for the last 34 years. It is a great career. My students have changed over time from my own fifth grade classroom in rural Minnesota, to a science specialist at Crossroads Elementary in the urban core of Saint Paul, to teaching graduate pre-service students at Hamline University. The unifying weave in my teaching fabric has been the creation of learning environments supportive of a collaborative, student-centered, community of learners. Woven into that professional cloth are the fibers of guiding high school kids on canoe trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, escorting my elementary students to a residential environmental learning center (Audubon Center of the North Woods), contributing authentic scientific data through GLOBE, visiting community schools in Ghana, flying our sixth grade students’ investigation in a microgravity environment through NASA’s Reduced Gravity Flight program, softening the reluctance of pre-service students to see themselves as teachers of science – exciting them to engage their students in the kind of science learning that strikes at the core of what makes us human, and all the myriad interactions with hundreds of young people as we have shared together in the joy of learning.
Something that has eluded me during my career has been the kind of extended immersion into the doing of science that I expect from this program. I applied six years ago without success. Being gifted this time with this Teacher at Sea opportunity is a realization of a multiple long-held visions, including:
- Immersion into the doing of science. I am excited to be able to share with my students the first hand experience of being in the scientist role in the practice of doing science in the field – in a more real and felt way than the doing of science we experience in an elementary science lab.
- Being at sea. I feel at home in a canoe and grew up with a love of being on the water. Seems the Rainier is bigger than my 16.5’ Old Town Penobscot. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, but a far, far way from the vast expanse of the ocean. With the increasing need to understand the vital impact the oceans play in the global climate systems directly impacting the day-to-day life on the Minnesota prairie, I am excited to bring home first hand experience.
- Exploring Alaska – the grandeur of the Ketchikan Gateway is spectacularly breathtaking. I have little desire for a tourist cruise – seeing Alaska (albeit a small part) through the eyes of a researcher is thrilling. Though our focus will be viewing the bottom of the ocean – I will be deliberate in taking the time to look up to capture the grandeur of the surrounding landscape. I once had a fascinating conversation with Dan Barry, NASA astronaut, as we prepared for our reduced gravity flight. He told of many astronauts so intently focused on their work during a space walk that, once home, were unable to describe the incredible view impeded only by the visor of their space helmet. In response, he scripted into his program specific commands to look out and “make a memory”. I have little doubt I will not need a reminder to look up from the sonar data collections screen to make memories while cruising through the Gateway. I have my camera ready and fully expect my pictures to run beyond 1000.
I look forward to sharing this grand adventure. Specifically, I hope to share the story with my current class at Hamline. The semester ends while I am at sea, so facilitation of learning will happen while I am on board. They have patiently lived the experience of my acceptance as an alternate while anxiously waiting word of a cruise, to the excitement of successfully being placed aboard the Rainier. I will be working with a former colleague at Crossroads Elementary in Saint Paul, MN to vicariously take her class on an exploration of the ocean bottom off the coast of Alaska. I also hope to share the journey with my grandson, Logan’s class at Westwood Elementary in Traverse City, MI.
In a short week and a bit (May 4) I fly out of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport to begin this grand adventure. I can’t wait.