Though most scientific lesson plans take place in a classroom, many would agree that that best opportunity for practical application of scientific phenomena occurs out in the field.
In the case of Mulino-based Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) third-grade teacher John Meyer, that field just happens to be more than 1,000 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
On Thursday, Meyer held a live-lesson for about 70 ORCA students across the state from his home, allowing Meyer and his tuned-in students the chance to dive deep below into the waters off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia to gain a glimpse into some of the ocean's wonders as viewed live from the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus.
Meyer has been teaching with ORCA for five years and has tried to find ways to engage his students in science, and the live-lesson – streamed directly from the Nautilus and available for anyone to watch 24/7 – allows him to do just that.
"The live-streaming technology gives our students the ability to travel anywhere in the world," Meyer said. "I can take a student that's in Christmas Valley and we can go to Washington, D.C. and visit the Smithsonian; there are tours we can take and scientists we can talk to there."
"It gets the students out of the classroom, and we can explore the world," he said.
The live-lesson allowed students to directly ask scientists aboard the Nautilus any questions they may have; the students varied from kindergarteners to high school seniors, so the questions featured a wide range of topics. A few include: "How many animals do you see in the ocean?" "What kind of training/education would be important for working on an exploration like this?" "Are you expecting any trouble form the curious critters pulling off wires or making nests in your equipment?" and "Is it fun?"
All of these are viable questions as students gained insight from some of the world's top professionals in their fields. And Meyer said that's the point of this lesson: to encourage students to explore the possibilities of a career in science.
"The exploration gives our students career and educational opportunities that are maybe outside of where they're at now," Meyer said.
"Their knowledge of careers is now expanding because of these virtual trips we do."
The Nautilus is a 64-meter research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, which was founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard, who is best known for his discovery of the RMS Titanic's final resting place on the seafloor. The Nautilus's purpose is to survey and document unexplored regions from British Columbia along the West Coast of the United States down to Baja California, Mexico. The Nautilus Exploration Program has three main focuses of marine science: biology, geology, and archeology.
According to their website, 95 percent of the ocean is unexplored, and that number "approaches 100 percent for its deepest regions where the Nautilus team does most of [its] work."
At the time of the live-lesson, the students were able to view the re-installation of a 1,300 meter-deep NEPTUNE Ocean Observatory, as part of Ocean Networks Canada, which allows for access to a wide range of sea depths, seafloor mapping surveys, and remote operated vehicles (ROVs) that scientists can use to explore and sample materials found in the water.
Meyer had the opportunity himself to embark on a voyage in 2013 on the JOIDES Resolution, a seagoing research vessel that drills core samples and collects measurements from under the ocean floor. At that time, he was on the other end of the screen as he was being asked questions by students while on board the ship.
Meyer said the live-lesson lasted for about 20 minutes; students needed only to log on via their computers to tune into the lesson.
"The questions [the students] ask are really in depth, thought out questions," Meyer said. "This gives them the opportunity to really see things and think about how their education affects the world, and vice versa."
"The virtual classrooms really allow our students to get outside of the classroom and see the world, explore the world, and become a bigger and better part of the global community … I'm able to take my third graders around the world and show them how their actions can affect others around the world and how their education can benefit their community and greater communities around the world," Meyer said.
You can view live video feed from the Nautilus online .
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