URI’s Ballard to announce new ‘Educators at Sea’ program for students of Rhode Island

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – April 5, 2010 – When University of Rhode Island Oceanography Professor Robert Ballard leads his next research expedition in June, students and teachers from Smithfield’s Galagher Middle School and Narragansett High School will participate through a new Educators at Sea program.

The new educational outreach program, which Ballard hopes to expand to all of Rhode Island’s school districts and Boys & Girls Clubs in coming years, was announced today in a ceremony at Smithfield High School. Making the announcement with Ballard was U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Through the new program, teachers will travel aboard Ballard’s new ship of exploration, the E/V Nautilus, as it explores the world’s oceans each year. They will be supported by teams of educators ashore working on rotating watches at remote science consoles located at the Inner Space Center at the URI Bay Campus, Smithfield High School, or other sites around the country.

The Nautilus, which is operated by Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust, will begin its first major expedition in June. Teachers will be aboard on every leg of that four- to five-month journey linked by satellite to the new Inner Space Center.

The Educator at Sea program is part of the international Nautilus Live Initiative of Sea Research Foundation, the parent organization for Mystic Aquarium, Immersion Learning, and the Institute for Exploration, of which Ballard is president.

“This Nautilus Live Initiative and its Educators at Sea program is designed to be the beginning of a life-long learning experience for young students all across the state, taking advantage of a broad range of informal and formal educational opportunities,” said Ballard.

“The Educators at Sea will be embedded in the seagoing team aboard the Nautilus, constantly reporting back to shore on what is going on aboard the ship, filing daily reports, and sending out alerts on various Web sites and social networks when a discovery is about to happen so everyone can tune in live,” he added.

Using the high bandwidth satellite linking the Nautilus to the Inner Space Center and from there to remote science consoles and the Internet, students and the general public will be able to follow in real time all of the action taking place aboard the Nautilus, including the ability to listen in on conversations aboard ship as its undersea robots explore the deep sea.

Sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, Sea Research Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the National Geographic Society, and private foundations including the Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., Susan and Riley Bechtel Foundation, and the Caterpillar Foundation, the Nautilus will explore the deep-water regions of the Black Sea, Aegean, and Eastern Mediterranean in search of undiscovered natural wonders of the undersea world as well as lost chapters of human history.

Beginning in June, the public will be able to watch live and pre-recorded activities aboard the E/V Nautilus at the new Nautilus Theater located in Ballard’s “Challenge of the Deep” exhibit center at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn. A new Nautilus Live Web site will enable anyone, anywhere to follow the action.

Schools and Boys and Girls Clubs participating in this program will have access to informal education material prepared by Immersion Learning as well as formal curriculum prepared by the JASON Project.