How do you get kids to say “I want to be a scientist when I grow up?” Dr. Robert Ballard, known for discovering the Titanic among other scientific breakthroughs, may have the answer. The renowned oceanographer’s latest quest is not to discover underwater secrets, but to inspire the next generation of ocean explorers by introducing kids to the thrill of discovery and encouraging them to pursue the science and environmental careers so critical for the health of the planet.
From March 2–7, 2008, Immersion Presents Monterey Bay, a cutting-edge, interactive educational program led by Dr. Ballard and a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions, will use telepresence technology – a combination of satellite and Internet connections – to transport young people live from the Marine Institute to a scientific expedition in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Students will explore in real-time one of the planet’s most spectacular and most important biodiversity hotspots where they will experience majestic 30-metre-tall kelp forests, take a day trip out to the deep sea in NOAA’s research vessel R/V Fulmar, and study endangered marine mammals like the grey or blue whale and the threatened California sea otter.
“When kids see scientists in action, whether diving a kelp forest, exploring with an ROV, or getting up close to a whale, they immediately discover that being a scientist means much more than wearing a white coat in a lab," said Dr. Ballard, founder of Immersion Presents. "With everyone talking about ‘going green,’ now more than ever we need kids to get excited about the environmentally focused careers that will help protect the planet. Immersion expeditions show kids that science is not only far from boring or nerdy, it is absolutely essential to preserve one of our most threatened resources, the oceans.”
“Immersion Presents is a fun and powerful science education program,” said Dwight Howse, head, School of Ocean Technology, Marine Institute. “We are extremely pleased to be able to offer students the opportunity to explore the advanced technologies being used in ocean activities and showcase the career opportunities that these technologies afford them. We ‘d also like to acknowledge the tremendous support of the provincial government, more specifically the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, in making this project a reality. This support was integral to the overall success of the program.”
“Many of our kids only know what a jellyfish is from watching Sponge Bob on television,” said Hector Perez, club director of the Chicago’s Union League Boys and Girls Club, which also participates in the program. “It’s hard for kids to imagine being part of something that they’ve never seen before. Immersion Presents’ virtual science expeditions open their minds, transporting them to a whole new world of ocean discoveries, new technology, and exciting career opportunities.”
“Encouraging kids to pursue careers in science is just as important as researching unique underwater ecosystems like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary program welcomes the opportunity to work with partners like Immersion Presents to introduce marine sanctuaries to the American public, especially young people,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
“The marine environment here is unique, drawing people for its rich bounty, economic opportunity, recreation and inspiration. Protection of these special places preserves them for use and enjoyment for generations to come.”
Live Broadcasts at the Marine Institute
Immersion Presents broadcasts will allow students, educators and researchers to participate in the ocean expedition live. Dr. Ballard will lead the mission from the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island, where he is a professor of oceanography. Using special camera systems that were developed and installed in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by the Institute for Exploration, the Inner Space Center will receive the live video from the expedition site via the Internet. Immersion Presents will retransmit those images to a network of partner Immersion Sites and Boys and Girls Clubs across the nation via satellite, using a high-speed network. The Marine Institute, in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Science Centre, will air the daily live broadcasts, which are part of a larger interdisciplinary science curriculum designed for upper elementary and middle school students, from March 2–7, at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. On Thursday, March 6, a show will be broadcast in Spanish.
Immersion Presents programs also include comprehensive curricula packed with realistic research activities that educate kids about the environment. The Immersion Presents Monterey Bay curriculum, underscoring the importance of scientific discovery and its impact on everyday life, teaches kids how kelp and other seaweeds are used to produce commercial products such as shampoo, toothpaste and ice cream. It also prompts kids to think about water quality as they make a homemade hydrometer and estimate the salinity, or saltiness, of several mystery water samples. Other activities in the curriculum introduce kids to California sea otters, bioluminescent deep sea creatures, and marine science careers.
About Immersion Presents
With cutting-edge telepresence technology that transports students to the exciting world of ocean research and exploration, Immersion Presents is a science education program that combines engaging multimedia curricula and live interaction with researchers at expedition sites to help students and educators better understand and appreciate one of the world's most important and threatened resources—our oceans. Immersion Presents is dedicated to teaching students about the important role that the oceans play in their lives, helping them succeed academically, and inspiring them to pursue careers in science and related fields.
Immersion Presents programs are distributed to some 500,000 students each year through its network of 30 Immersion Sites at aquariums, museums, science centers, and educational service centers. Approximately fifty thousand of these are at-risk youth served through 54 Boys & Girls Clubs that participate through a U.S. Department of Justice crime prevention program.
Immersion Presents, is a collaboration among Mystic Aquarium & the Institute for Exploration, the University of Rhode Island, and the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program. Additional expedition partners and sponsors include the Sea Research Foundation, Inc., NOAA's Office of Education, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Dr. Scholl Foundation, the University of Connecticut, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
About the Marine Institute
The Marine Institute is North America’s most comprehensive institute dedicated to education, training, applied research and industrial support for the oceans industries.
About the Newfoundland and Labrador Science Centre
The Newfoundland & Labrador Science Centre, formally known as the Discovery Network, is a non-profit, charitable organization that was created, in 1993, to encourage interest and participation in science through informal education programs, interactive science displays and province-wide outreach programs.