National Science Foundation
Teachers Set Sail for the School of Rock
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School of Rock participants and Joint Oceanographic Institutions staff identify important features in seafloor cores aboard the JOIDES Resolution drillship.

Credit: Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and Texas A&M University
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Thirteen middle school, high school, and museum educators from around the United States recently set sail from Victoria, Canada, for Acapulco, Mexico, aboard the JOIDES Resolution drillship as participants in an innovative outreach program called the School of Rock. With funding from National Science Foundation Ocean Drilling Program, the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc. organized the School of Rock to provide teachers with a seagoing research experience and to expose them to the activities and scientific results of the international Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and its predecessor, the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). Teacher-at-sea programs have, in the past, provided access to oceanographic research for a small number of educators, but the School of Rock took advantage of a 16-day break in scientific drilling during which the JOIDES Resolution could be wholly dedicated to accommodating a larger group of teachers, who were accompanied during the cruise by IODP scientists, shipboard laboratory technicians, and drill rig personnel. The potential impact of such a large teacher-at-sea program is impressive, with estimates as high as 300,000 for the number of students who can be reached by the teachers-at-sea and those they train back at home over a 5 year period. The general public also stands to gain from the School of Rock owing to the involvement of museum-based educators whose experiences aboard ship will inform museum exhibits for years to come.

During School of Rock, teachers were kept busy with a mixture of classroom activities, laboratory work, tours of shipboard facilities, communications with shore, and the usual hubbub of life aboard a large research vessel. IODP scientists, including two university professors who sailed with the group, lectured on the scientific disciplines that motivate ocean drilling and on the key tools used to study cores and the seafloor. Teachers conducted laboratory experiments on real seafloor cores and attended demonstrations of drilling equipment and sophisticated lab instrumentation. Daily communication links with the shore enabled teachers to keep their students at home abreast of the expedition’s progress, and the teachers used their own classroom experience to draft new teaching materials for students of all ages. As they adjust to being back on dry land, teachers are organizing workshops for colleagues and using their new course material in classrooms across the country. Planning is already underway for a future session of the School of Rock to bring IODP science into the nation’s classrooms.

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