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Outreach > Institution Outreach

Institution Outreach

Jian Lin (left) and Karl von Reden, both of the Geology and Geophysics Department, plan presentations for K-12 students at a New England COSEE-sponsored workshop. (Photo by Andrea Thorrold)
While the focus of formal education at WHOI is on the university level and higher, the Institution has a history of formal and informal educational outreach to the public, teachers, and students from pre-kindergarten through high school.

For decades, WHOI staff have participated as judges, mentors, and advisors in local science fairs, with prizes to top winners donated by the Academic Programs office, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR), and the WHOI Sea Grant program. Our researchers regularly speak to school groups, visit classrooms, give lab tours, and make presentations at museums and conferences. Sea Grant also sponsors a lecture series on ocean topics every spring, and hosts a Web site on marine science careers (www.marinecareers.net), among other efforts.

The WHOI Exhibit Center hosts approximately 50 school groups each year, and WHOI employees are an important part of the regional Ocean Science Bowl competition. The Woods Hole Science Technology Education Partnership, now in its 15th year, involves local schools, research labs such as WHOI, and businesses, with the common purpose of advancing science, math, and technology education in the schools.

Outreach activities in 2003 reached more than 200 K-12 teachers, and ranged from hosting the annual conference of Massachusetts Marine Educators, to workshops in oceanography for middle and high school teachers.

The Web continues to play an important role in outreach. Several hundred educators registered in May and June on the Dive and Discover Web site (www.divediscover.whoi.edu), created by senior scientists Dan Fornari and Susan Humphris to access daily updates from an expedition to the New England Seamounts and provide classroom activities based on them. During the three-week cruise, nearly 50,000 visitors from more than six countries followed an investigation of deep sea corals. To extend the reach of the Web site, WHOI worked with the Boston Museum of Science to create a temporary exhibit featuring the Dive and Discover Seamounts expedition, which included daily live phone connections between museum visitors and researchers aboard the research vessel Atlantis and the deep submergence vehicle Alvin.

In 2003, the Institution’s museum exhibition, “Extreme Deep,” traveled to three venues: the St. Louis Science Center, the Nauticus National Maritime Center in Norfolk, and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. More than 175,000 visitors encountered the full-size replica of the Alvin personnel sphere and explored life in the depths—starting with spectacular images of ethereal jellyfish, and culminating in a life-size, 3-D replica of the exotic life that dwells around seafloor hydrothermal vents.

The New England Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (NE-COSEE) completed its first year of operation in 2003. The Center is among seven nationwide funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance collaboration and communication between ocean science researchers and educators. The Center is a five-year partnership between WHOI, the New England Aquarium, and the University of Massachusetts. Led by Deborah Smith, a senior scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department, the NE-COSEE team at WHOI surveyed the WHOI community to determine which resources and skills researchers need to conduct outreach. Other activities included:
  • A visit by NSF Ocean Sciences Division Director Jim Yoder regarding the agency’s “broader impact” requirement;
  • Developing a definition of “ocean literacy” to help evaluate educational material;
  • Developing necosee.whoi.edu to inform and facilitate networking;
  • A one-week experimental Ocean Science Education Institute to bring together scientists and teachers.
With the ever-increasing public interest in the oceans, outreach continues to play an important role in communicating the meaning and value of the research and engineering conducted at WHOI.

—Stephanie Murphy (samurphy@whoi.edu)

Related Web Sites
WHOI Sea Grant Program
New England Center of Ocean Science Education Excellence (NE-COSEE)
Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR)
Dive and Discover
Massachusetts Marine Educators
Woods Hole Science and Technology Education Partneship(WHSTEP)
WHOI Sea Grant www.marinecareers.net