24 February 2010

Ocean Observing Systems in the classroom

Posted by Michael McFadden

Teacher participants off the coast of Dana Point, measuring water temperature, salinity and depth. (Photo by Jane Lee)

Teacher participants off the coast of Dana Point, measuring water temperature, salinity and depth. (Photo by Jane Lee)

On Tuesday, marine scientist Dr. Linda Duguay discussed efforts to demystify Ocean Observing Systems for teachers in the Los Angeles area during her talk ED24A-02 “COSEE-West Ocean Observing System (OOS) Workshops.”

This week-long summer institute takes a group of 20 – 25 teachers and introduces them to the scientists and instruments that comprise many of the local and California statewide OOS networks, such as the  Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System. Teachers become familiar with the kinds of instruments used, the types of data they collect, and how to bring that data into their classrooms.

Although teachers are excited about their week of OOS immersion, according to Dr. Duguay, building and driving remotely operated vehicles in a test tank at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point is the most popular activity. The hope is that the teachers take their excitement into the classroom and expose their students to cutting edge research that won’t be found in textbooks until those students are out of school. The scientists involved with this workshop also benefit in that they eventually reach broader audiences through the teachers they help train.

In addition to their trip to Dana Point, workshop participants visit the University of Southern California to discuss gliders, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to use home-made drogues to study current patterns off a local dock, Jet Propulsion Laboratory to familiarize themselves with the array of satellites watching our oceans, and to the University of California, Los Angeles to learn how to access data from a local mooring in Santa Monica Bay.

Dr. Duguay is a principle investigator with the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE). One of COSEE’s West Coast hubs (COSEE-West) collaborates with COSEE Coastal Trends, to offer these workshops. These two centers are part of a national network of centers, funded by the National Science Foundation, whose goal is to foster partnerships and connections between ocean scientists, educators and the public.

COSEE-West also brought a shorter version of this OOS workshop to the online community. Some of the lectures that were taped during the in-person workshops were posted online for people around the world to view. The scientists who gave those talks were online for a certain number of days, and people were able to ask questions and interact with them.

OOS can be an intimidating field for even the science community. The acronyms alone can be daunting, By showing teachers that the data won’t bite and that the scientists are more than willing to explain the acronyms, COSEE-West is helping researchers to take that next step in explaining their work to lay audiences. And they even provide a glossary of OOS acronyms!

– Jane Lee, COSEE-West program specialist, University of Southern California