Discovering Science at Sea
These educators are selected to participate in the School of Rock, a professional development workshop for science teachers and informal science educators from across the United States and member nations of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The School of Rock's goal is to give science teachers hands-on research experience they can use to enhance their teaching.
"We have two types of programs – ship-based and shore-based," said Scott Slough, associate professor of science education. "The ship-based expeditions take advantage of transits where the ship travels between drill sites. The shore-based programs are located at Texas A&M’s Gulf Coast Repository as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program."
Slough, who has served as one of the program's instructional designers and evaluators since its inception in 2005, says that during the ship-based programs teachers are able to experience life onboard a working research ship.
In early June, 14 science educators took part in a 10-day journey from Curacao to Bermuda on the JOIDES Resolution, to learn about geology, science process, ship engineering and the relevance of scientific ocean drilling.
“Educators interact with a range of ship staff and other experts to learn about life at sea and the careers necessary for making the science happen,” Slough said. “Participants also work on pilot projects, conduct live video-broadcasts and ship tours, and engage in a multitude of discussions about evaluation, teaching informal science and more.”
The JOIDES Resolution, operated by the IODP, sails around the world to drill for core samples of the earth's crust and sediment. The ship is equipped with 12 laboratories used to study the cores that enable scientists to learn more about the history of the earth.
The daily schedule follows normal ship schedules (12 hours on, 12 hours off) and includes handling real scientific ocean drilling cores and data in the floating 'lab stack' of the JOIDES Resolution. The teachers also work on curriculum and instructional activities and create blogs and videos to share with their classes back home.
"We schedule the teachers 10-12 hours a day, but in reality, we work 12-plus hours a day, but we love it," Slough said. "My only regret is that we can't replicate the experience for more teachers."
Slough adds that the hands-on experiences offered through the School of Rock provide the teachers with insights they can't get from traditional classroom learning.
"There is a great deal of debate on the transformative power of authentic science experiences for teachers," Slough said. "I don't think there would be as much debate if critics spent time on the ship with us."
The IODP at Texas A&M University is based in the College of Geosciences. Texas A&M, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership serve as the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program U.S. Implementing Organization (IODP-USIO).
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