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April 28, 2014
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

NOAA Ocean Day at Truro Central School Brings Science to the Classroom

Marine mammals, sea turtles, and drifters to track ocean surface currents were the focus of NOAA Ocean Day on April 15 at the Truro Central School (TCS) in Truro, Mass., where staff and students welcomed researchers from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC)’s Woods Hole Laboratory.

“It is so important to give our students opportunities to experience science in action,” said organizer Stacey Klimkosky, the school’s library and media skills specialist. “The idea for NOAA Ocean Day really came about when I returned from Alaska after having served as a NOAA Teacher at Sea on the NOAA ship Rainier. I knew that I wanted to invite scientists into the classroom to encourage students to begin to practice ocean stewardship.”

Center scientists began sharing their research with students shortly after the school bell rang at 8:15 a.m. NEFSC sea turtle researcher Heather Haas spoke to students in grades 2, 3, 4, and 6, spending an hour in each classroom showing students pictures and video from her research at sea capturing, sampling, and tagging loggerhead turtles. Hands-on activities included learning how to identify different species of sea turtles and collecting data about them by measuring their shells. Blood samples are collected from turtles at sea for a number of studies; students got a sense of what that involves by simulating the separation of plasma from red blood cells, using vegetable oil and colored water.

Grace Simpkins from the Center’s NOAA Outreach and Education on Protected Species (NOEPS) program also spent an hour each with students in grades 4 and 6, teaching them about bioacoustics. Students learned about the importance of sound to marine mammals, the sounds various species of marine mammals make, and how researchers use these sounds to learn about the animals. Later in the day, Simpkins visited kindergarten and first grade classrooms, teaching the students to identify marine mammals from other animals using a series of hands-on activities in a lesson called Marine Mammals in Our Backyard. All classes learned how humans impact the marine environment and affect marine mammals, and discovered what they, as students, can do to make a difference.

Oceanographer Jim Manning, with the help of environmental educator Abigail Smith, spent his day with the two fifth grade classes discussing ocean currents and then building a surface drifter in each class. Students cut the fabric for the four sails, glued the edges to form sleeves and installed grommets, and decorated the sails. The classes will finish the final drifter assembly in the next few weeks before the drifters are deployed in May or June off Cape Cod with the help of TCS parents. The fifth graders also learned how to track their drifters on the Internet and follow drifters from other schools and organizations.

In 2009, Klimkosky sailed for three weeks aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier during a hydrographic survey off Alaska’s Pavlov Islands. Truro Central School fifth grade teacher Megan O’Leary is also a former NOAA Teacher at Sea, sailing aboard the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown in 2007. O’Leary spent 30 days aboard the ship, working with scientists conducting climate research and maintaining tsunami buoys in the equatorial Pacific off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. Klimkosky now heads the New England Teacher at Sea Alumni group, known as NETASA.

“The ocean is literally my students' backyard,” said Klimkosky. “These young caretakers are learning just how important the ocean is to them and how important they are to the ocean. They can also tell you the role that NOAA plays in protecting our oceans --"Oh, look! It's NOAA!" they say whenever they see the logo. Get ready...I wouldn't be surprised if several of them join NOAA’s ranks in 10 or 15 years!”

About 140 students in grades K through 6 participated in the NOAA Ocean Day program at Truro Central School.

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