A mid year update from Mrs. Marcotte—
In October, students from my class toured Narragansett Bay on a Save the Bay education vessel. During the two-and-a-half hour cruise the students examined the bay’s ecology through hands-on activities involving the microscopic world of plankton, trawling for fish on the bay’s floor, and water quality testing. Examining plankton educated the students first—hand about the food chain. The trawl revealed species that exist within our bay waters which would otherwise go missed, including the mantis shrimp, lizard fish, flounder, crabs, and sea lettuce. Water quality testing exposed the students in how to go about measuring the bay’s health by testing salinity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. Students recorded data and scientists discussed the importance of a healthy bay and its vitality to Rhode Island’s success. It was emphasized how we, as citizens, impact the bay by our everyday activities. For example, oil leaking from our automobiles which will eventually reach the bay as runoff from a parking lot. Students were excited to use the scientific equipment and discover the immediate results. These in-depth activities provided the students with a snapshot of the bay’s overall health on that day.
This month Oliva Ahern, an outreach scientist and master’s candidate from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), will visit the students and present a program to them, titled, Our Narragansett Bay, Health and Challenges. She will focus on Narragansett Bay, specifically the history of the bay, including the effects of past nutrient overload to Greenwich Bay. In addition, she will inform the students of the numerous benefits our bay has to offer, including the economical livelihoods so many reap. It is important to note that the National Research Council recently ranked the GSO’s Ph.D. program one of the best in the country and fifth among oceanographic institutions. We are fortunate to have such a unique resource at our fingertips.
In addition to the visit by Ms. Ahern, the students will soon participate in a field trip to Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Facility in Providence. Students will witness first hand how the facility treats unwanted wastewater from homes, schools, businesses and industries.
In class, the students have engaged in a number of supporting activities through various print and media resources, including an online version of the book Estuaries. The students are utilizing the purchased Chromebooks for activities that accompany the pages of Estuaries—graphic organizers, videos, and web links. The students have been learning to download documents and create Google docs and slides to present information in a creative, fun fashion. Discovery Education has provided students with additional information in the form of videos about the effects of algae in water bodies. Students created T-charts to record the positive and negative outcomes of such events. This background information provides students with an understanding of how such processes can affect Narragansett Bay and its sub-bays, including Greenwich Bay. We explored the various career options available to people in coastal communities and each student voted on the career of his/her choice. Following the study of these careers, students created individual bar graphs to display the classroom voting results. One career was Marine Geology and Geophysics, which is that of Dr. Robert Ballard. Dr. Ballard is the Director of URI’s Center for Ocean Exploration and a faculty member at GSO, as well as President of the Ocean Exploration Trust. He is in the forefront in the development of advanced submersibles. His scientific interests include volcanic, tectonic, and hydrothermal processes of the mid-ocean ridge to deep-sea archaeology and maritime history. The students were fascinated to watch a CNN interview of Dr. Ballard. We may have some future marine scientists on our hands!