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Dive and Discover: Connecting with Students and Teachers

When one of Carolyn Sheild’s seventh grade students at Clarke Middle School (Lexington, MA) asked her if what they saw on Dive and Discover was going to be on the nightly news, she knew she had the kids’ attention. For Sheild, who has a degree in marine biology, seeing her students truly connect with science is exciting, and using near real time data as a classroom teaching tool is about as good as it gets.

Sheild is one of several hundred teachers who incorporated Dive and Discover’s Indian Ocean cruise into their lesson plans with great success. The evaluations returned by those teachers described the powerful effect on students when teachers are armed with a content-rich, live-from-sea Web site. “The students have their imaginations fired in ways they have not for a long time,” says Mellie Lewis, a middle school teacher at Atholton Elementary School in Columbia, Maryland. It’s like all the pieces fall into place: The kids are more motivated when using computers in the classroom—clicking on slide shows, videos, and quizzes—and the teachers are empowered with cutting-edge research and a tremendous education tool brimming with material that measures up to educational standards. Lewis says, for her classroom, “It’s high excitement and high learning!”

The students using Dive and Discover range from third graders to college students in classrooms from Washington state to a Native American reservation school in Arizona, from community colleges in California to land-locked classrooms in Tennessee. “It’s fun, yet at the same time you are learning a lot from it,” says Hyun Yui, one of Carolyn Sheild’s students at Clarke Middle School. “And it’s good because we’re learning something recent, and not something that happened a long time ago.”

To enhance the site’s usefulness in the classroom, WHOI partnered with COSI Toledo, (Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry in Toledo) to develop and distribute a free “educator’s companion.” The companion explains the science and technology behind the cruise and provides classroom activities to help students create their own experiments. COSI reports that the educator companion was used by more than 10,000 students in 22 US states, Canada, Great Britain, Guam, and the Seychelles islands.

The site has given students a better understanding of the science and of what it’s like to be a scientist working at sea. “I didn’t think anything lived that deep or survived that pressure,” said Elliott, a fifth grader in Mellie Lewis’s class. “I didn’t know how scientists collect data that deep in the ocean. After looking at the Web site, I saw that they used Jason and the Argo II mapping system. What surprised me was I thought it would be all facts and pictures. I didn’t think they’d have slide shows and videos and activities. It was really good.”
 
For teachers like Mellie Lewis and Carolyn Sheild, sparking that enthusiasm is just the beginning. “The kids went home and asked their parents if they knew what chemosynthesis is, and most of them didn’t,” says Lewis. “So the kids were able to teach their parents, and it became a family thing. I wasn’t just educating my 20 kids—it went beyond that.”

From all reports, teachers of even the youngest students participating in Dive and Discover found the experience useful. But how much could third graders understand about ocean research? “They thought it was just so incredible, that we’re talking to people waaay over here on the other side of the world, and their experiences are very different from what we’re having here—they’re just wowed by it,” reports Jill White, who teaches at the Harding School in Corvallis, Oregon.

White also noted a benefit for teachers using the site in the classroom: the chance to learn about cutting edge research and the opportunity to become more familiar with a technology their students have grown up with.

“The children are so in tune with technology— they think, ‘Oh, yeah well sure, they can put this camera down and it can collect all these images and information.’ For me it’s amazing—I’m 50 years old and I think this work is really incredible.”

—Stephanie Murphy

Originally published: March 1, 2002