September 3, 2014

Heading out to sea as a NOAA Teacher at Sea

Posted by Laura Guertin


Some of the swag I've been sent before heading out to sea!

Some of the swag I’ve been sent before heading out to sea!

Professional development is part of our lives.  Whether we attend workshops at conferences or field seminars to learn new techniques, we are always looking for that next adventure to make us better scientists – which then spills over and makes us better educators.  I’m off on my latest professional development experience, joining the crew of the NOAA research ship Thomas Jefferson for a three-week hydrographic survey.

My background is in marine geology, and I haven’t been on a ship since I was in graduate school at UM-RSMAS (Go ‘Canes!).  Although I’ve participated in incredible fieldtrips in national parks and other countries, and I have been inspired by my experiences at Chapman and Penrose conferences, I have felt for years that something was missing from my professional life.  It was time to figure out how to get out to sea and join a research cruise (while, at the same time, keeping my “educator” hat on).  I found two great opportunities that really matched my interests.  One program is aboard the Joides Resolution as an Onboard Education Officer /Teacher at Sea, and the other program is NOAA’s Teacher at Sea.

Jackie Hams on the R/V Revelle in 2011 (photo posted with permission)

Jackie Hams on the R/V Revelle in 2011 (photo posted with permission)

Both programs are open to K-16 teachers, but I was immediately drawn to the NOAA program.  When I was an undergraduate geology major at Bucknell University (Go Bison!), I spent two summers interning with the field photogrammetry unit of NOAA in Norfolk, Virginia.  What a great way to go back and revisit my NOAA roots!  Yet I waited to apply… and another year went by before I applied… and then, while doing a Chautauqua Program led by Jim Wysong in Iceland last year, I ran in to Jackie Hams, a geologist from Los Angeles Valley College and former NOAA Teacher at Sea.  Jackie’s stories about her experiences with NOAA and her encouragement gave me the push I needed to apply.

So to make a long story short… I applied, I was accepted, and on Sept. 1st I joined the NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson on a hydrographic survey.  I really have come full circle!  Not only am I excited to be a part of the survey, but I’m also looking forward to blogging about my experiences at the NOAA Teacher at Sea website, AND teaching my oceanography class online while I’m on board.  In essence, I’ll be teaching about the ocean, from the ocean!  What a great (and sure to be exhausting!) experience for myself and my students.  Not to worry, the AGU GeoEd Trek blog will continue with posts I have written up ahead of time, and I promise not to overwhelm this blog with too many ocean stories upon my return!

You know, I always tell my students that my job as an educator is to open the door to their learning – but it is up to each of them to step through that door and take advantage of new opportunities.  Now looking back, I’m surprised I waited so long to get back out to sea, especially when I knew about the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.  Clearly, I need to take my own advice!