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Teacher To Get Hands-On Research Experience Aboard NOAA Ship


May 20, 2004

Alaska - Students at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, will learn about marine science in an exciting new way this year, through the eyes and perceptions of their own math and science teacher Curtis Watkins, who is participating in the NOAA Teacher at Sea

photo NOAA ship Rainier

The NOAA Ship RAINIER is designed and outfitted primarily for conducting hydrographic surveys in support of nautical charting. Scientific equipment normally aboard is limited to equipment that supports these survey operations. The ship operates off the U.S. Pacific Coast, and in Alaskan coastal waters. The RAINIER is named for Mount Rainier. The vessel is operated by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations.
Photo courtesy NOAA
program of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Watkins is being sponsored by a partnership between the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program and NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services's National Current Observation Program.

Watkins, a resident of Fairbanks, is sailing aboard the 231-ft. NOAA hydrographic survey ship Rainier May 17-28 from Petersburg to Sitka, Alaska, to work with scientists conducting hydrographic surveys in Sitka Sound. The surveys, which determine least depths and find obstructions and hazards to navigation, will be used to update the area's nautical charts. One of NOAA's missions is to create and update the nation's nautical charts to ensure safe navigation.

While on board, Watkins will take pictures and write daily logs that include information about the latitude, longitude, sea temperatures and other data, research of the day, and interviews with scientists. The logs will be emailed to his school, where students can follow his activities. Students and others can also email questions about the voyage to him.

"I'm really looking forward to getting research experience with the crew of the Rainier that can be shared with the students and staff of Lathrop High School," Watkins said.

The enthusiasm for learning generated between teachers and students is the biggest payoff of NOAA's Teacher at Sea program, where teachers from kindergarten through college go aboard NOAA hydrographic, oceanographic and fisheries research vessels to work under the tutelage of scientists and crew. Now in its 13th year, the program has enabled more than 380 teachers to gain first hand experience in science at sea. Teachers can enrich their classroom curricula with a depth of understanding made possible by living and working side-by-side, day and night, with those who contribute to the world's body of scientific knowledge.

"The NOAA Teacher at Sea program continues to be an effective way to introduce teachers to NOAA science in an 'up close and personal' way that helps them bring science alive for their students," said Rear Admiral Nicholas A Prahl, NOAA Corps, deputy director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. "The program has been so successful, we're expanding it to make sure more teachers have an opportunity to participate and improve their research skills. It benefits NOAA as well. Enthusiastic teachers make great assistants and tend to boost the morale of everyone on board. After spending a couple of weeks on a ship, they also are able to offer career information to their students about the various shipboard jobs. We are always looking for good NOAA recruits! All around, it's a win-win situation."

The NOAA Teacher at Sea program is administered by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. NMAO is responsible for operating, managing and maintaining NOAA's fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft, and is composed both of civilians and officers of the NOAA Commissioned Corps, the nation's seventh and smallest uniformed service.


For more information:

Teacher at Sea program


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