August 3, 2007
"What is a tide?" I asked my high school students in Oklahoma. No one raised a hand. These were bright students with high SAT scores, students who wanted to learn. A red flag waved wildly in front of my face. The world is three-fourths water. The ocean has just barely been explored. The future of our world may well depend on new research of the oceans. Research done by the peers of these students. With the brilliance I saw in these students, many could be of great value to the world. Why don't they know more?
I researched the answer to that question. There were many reasons given why students are uneducated in oceanography. "We're a land locked state, so why bother to learn about something out of touch?" said some. "What happens in our state has no effect on the ocean," said others (hmm). "Oceanography is not in our state or national mandated curriculum," replied a curriculum director. "Teachers know little about the ocean," answered a geology professor. The list went on and on. I attended a National Science Teachers Association conference and discovered the ARMADA Project, which seemed to be a way to help solve what I deemed an enormous problem.
I teach pre-AP chemistry. I have been teaching for over twenty years. I include integrated lessons to teach or reinforce many chemistry concepts. I believe that students must be able to relate "real life" applications of science to their learning in order for the learning to become internalized. I feel that my experiences with the ARMADA Project will help me to relate the value of scientific research to my chemistry students and at the same time enable me to introduce the ocean to my students.
With this in mind, I headed to Miami to board the F. G. Walton Smith. When I got into the cab at the airport, I gave the driver the address of the University of Miami near "Kiva Scane". This was the first clue the driver had that I was not from Miami (the other was my accent). I was soon informed that the place was "Key Biscayne" - kivas are much closer to my home than the keys. I was meet at the entrance to the University by Dr. Tom Lee. I was shown to the boat. It was dark, so I could not see it very well, but I was very excited about being aboard. I put my suitcases in my stateroom. There was a bunk bed, a sink, a porthole, a closet, a desk, and a door to the head and shower. All of this was in a very tight space. I was impressed by the design. I noticed how everything was built for a rocking boat - the desk had a lip on it, all the doors locked, and the porthole had a water tight metal cover. Dr. Lee, Eddie, an engineer, and Miguel, a graduate student, invited me to eat at a local historical place: Tobacco Road! It was fun and interesting. The men were happy to tell me about local folklore, historical facts, and a little about our trip to come. Any anxiety I had about being aboard with complete strangers was soon gone. I can't wait to get under way tomorrow.