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Voyage of the Mary Sears

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The Mary Sears.

Ship's Log
Date: July 15, 2002
Departure Time: 1300 hours
Port: Salem, Massachusetts
Destination: Georges Banks; Long Island Sound; New London, CT; Woods Hole, MA
Weather: Exceptionally beautiful
Mission: Teach 13 landlubbers, including Minnesota Sea Grant's Bruce Munson, about applied marine research and related issues.

This seven-day excursion of the USNS Mary Sears was no pleasure cruise. Bruce Munson, Minnesota Sea Grant's environmental education extension educator, and the other swabbies learned how to gather and interpret data on this Navy ship with Department of Defense civilian scientists. Their goal was to enhance their ability to teach young people about science in general, and marine science in particular. This voyage and its associated ports-of-call turned the tables on Munson and his educator colleagues; for two weeks they became the students, Sea Scholars, to be exact, learning lessons that last a lifetime.

Munson was asked to participate in the Sea Scholar Experience and cast off this past July. "As we sailed from Georges Banks to Long Island Sound and on to other areas in New England, we saw how surveying marine conditions and mapping the ocean floor could aid submarines as they maneuver through the ocean's thermoclines, chemoclines, and topography," said Munson. "It was fascinating to look at the ocean from the perspective of national safety.

"Certainly our days aboard the Mary Sears were the highlight of the course," continued Munson, "but the National Marine Education Conference and other maritime opportunities made the two weeks exceptional."

Munson expects his saltwater experience will seep into his teaching. "With this hands-on understanding, I hope to interest more people in marine issues and science." Although he is reluctant to admit a connection, the sea might have seeped into Munson's veins. About six weeks after he dissected a shark on the Mary Sears, he became co-owner-and-captain of a sailboat on which he can ply a sweetwater sea Lake Superior.

The USNS Mary Sears, launched in 2000, is a 329 foot-long oceanographic survey ship capable of collecting information in both coastal or deep ocean waters. The designation USNS (United States Naval Ship) sets the research vessel apart from USS (United States Ship) warships.

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Bruce Munson

The Sea Scholars Experience is part of the Ocean Voyagers Program designed by professors at St. Norbert College and staff from the Oceanographer of the Navy's Office and the Naval Oceanographic Office. Sea Scholars have been sailing salty seas since 1998. The wind filling their sails is the notion that nothing doubles for actual oceanographic experience in helping to present marine science in classrooms.

Ocean Voyagers, which focuses on middle school teachers, is one of several partners in the Consortium for Oceanographic Activities for Students and Teachers (COAST). Other COAST partners include: Operation Pathfinder, an inservice program for elementary and middle school teachers of predominantly minority students; and STARBORD, a high school-level effort combining training with teacher-student research partnerships. The COAST collaborative delivers technology enriched, oceanographic and coastal processes education to teachers throughout the U.S. and is funded by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program.

Information about each of these programs for educators is available on the Internet at www.coast-nopp.org. For specific information about the Sea Scholars Experience, contact the Ocean Voyagers Program at St. Norbert College at (920) 403-4009.


By Sharon Moen
December 2002

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