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WHOI Waypoints: Immersing Teachers in Ocean Science

On May 2, a group of 32 educators visited the WHOI Exhibit Center for the fifth “Topics in Oceanography” workshop. The program, initiated in April 2001, gives teachers across Massachusetts the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research directly from scientists doing the work. The group is kept small in order to provide as much individual attention as possible, and each talk is followed by a discussion and demonstration on how the concepts can be taught in the classroom.

Erik Anderson, a WHOI/MIT Joint Program student (Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering), spoke about his investigations of the forces of drag on fish and squid that he conducts in the flume tank at the WHOI Coastal Research Laboratory. A former science teacher himself, Erik discussed ways to introduce the study of fluids and fluid dynamics to middle- and high-school students. He then demonstrated a classroom activity that he had developed himself, using soap bubbles to visualize boundary layers in a fluid.

Senior Scientist Larry Madin (Biology) spoke about “The Lives of the Jellies: Aliens of Inner Space.” With a specially lit tank of live jellies as a backdrop, he explained the life histories, adaptations, and impacts of jellyfish and other gelatinous marine animals from local waters and the deep sea. He discussed the possible role these fragile, transparent, and little-known animals may play in transporting material from the surface of the ocean to the depths. On a tour of Larry’s lab, participants observed feeding in a colonial hydroid (one phase of a jellyfish life cycle), and learned about predation by the hydroids on larval cod and the cod’s food sources on the historic feeding grounds of Georges Bank.

During lunch, Research Associate Chris Linder (Physical Oceanography) told the group about his experiences as researcher and writer/photographer on a summer 2002 cruise to the western Arctic Ocean. Chris presented the educators with an opportunity for classroom involvement via the “Edge of the Arctic Shelf” Web site (www.whoi.edu/arcticedge).

The workshop was part of a continuing series sponsored by the WHOI Sea Grant, Information, and Academic Programs offices, and the Ducommun & Gross Foundation.

Originally published: July 1, 2003