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Student Oceanography Essay

 

Going into this year, I was presented with multiple different options for class and of them all I chose Oceanography. When I first saw that this class was offered it intrigued me because it had been a subject that had interested me for a long time. I chose to take this class because our world is predominantly covered by water so it only makes sense to have knowledge on the majority of the world. In oceanography this year I learned a lot of different things that I did not know. I had learned all about the tides, marine life, explorers, as well as many other things. The things that I could have worked on however would be studying more for the various quizzes that we took. I could have challenged my abilities more and worked a little bit harder in class on whatever we were working on that day. Typically a partner or partners and I would work on the labs in class together and would usually complete them. Another thing that I could have done better on is the blogs.  I completed most of the blogs but I could have put a lot more detail into them. I also could have added more pictures to my blogs to add a visual element to them as well as putting them a step above an average post. As far as recognizing my individual learning style I prefer to work in small groups. I do not mind working alone but I feel as though I work more efficiently when I have the responsibility of not letting others down as well. When I work with others, everyone usually benefits from it through the increased work production. When I work alone, I often work at too slow of a pace and don’t finish in the allotted time. Another way that I like to learn is by lectures. Although it may seem boring I learn better through lectures than I do by going through the book and taking notes. Overall, I feel as though I did a fairly good job at applying myself throughout the course.

            Communication was another big aspect of this class because it was so group oriented. During labs it is usually required to that we work with more than one other person so it is very important that one has the ability to communicate properly and convey ideas to one another. If a person cannot convey their ideas to the other members of the group then the group may be missing out on a very good idea and wont be able to use it. It is also very important to communicate so that everyone in the group will get the same information and answers. I usually just say what ever comes to mind when I am working in a group and if the group likes it then great but if they do not then no harm done.

            Overall in this class I have learned a lot about the ocean by doing a handful of assignments and working through some decently challenging labs. Everything we did was related but at the some time it was different. Because everything connected, I was able to tie some concepts into others to make more sense of them. One thing that I worked on was a project about explorers. I had to research Charles Darwin and his journey on the H.M.S Beagle. And do a presentation on the whole thing. This project was one of the few only independent things I did in the class and I believe that I did very well on it. Another assignment that I worked in this class was an assignment where I was given a specific region on the globe and I had to look up what the wind patterns were going into and out of that region. The region that I had was Marlboro, New Zealand. I learned how wind patterns and ocean currents affect that area. Overall, I learned about the varying affects the ocean has on the world. Whether it be through differing tides or winds. I always new that the ocean was a huge part of life but I never really thought about how large until this course. 

~ R. G.

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Final Oceanography Reflection

Student Post

 Final Essay

            The most important thing a person can do is discover the world around them. There is no life more meaningless than one led without a thirst for knowledge; a yearning to discover the root of existence itself. One’s knowledge of outer space, our Earth, and the oceans surrounding us is vital for a creative and fulfilling life. The latter, our vast seas, are the focus of oceanography, which is why this class was so important for not only my academic career (I would like to major in either environmental studies or marine biology), but also for satisfying my natural craving of new thoughts and ideas. Spanning one semester, this class has taught me a range of information relating to ocean physics. Endless assignments, lengthy labs, and study questions have exercised my mind for the past five months, and countless connections can be made between each assignment, forming a map of ocean information.

            Initially, we covered the basics of how civilizations interacted with the ocean. For example, three primary reasons for early man to interact with the ocean were food gathering, to discover new lands, and for trade. We smoothly transitioned into an ocean exploration project, where we learned about certain explorers and the lands they discovered by sailing. The Polynesians, for example, were the first known explorers to practice open-ocean seafaring beyond sight of land.  After researching well-known ocean scientists, we moved on to how the oceans work.

            Something we concentrated greatly on was how the ocean affects everything around it. Specifically, we talked about hurricanes, tides, and currents. We did a hurricane tracking lab in which we discovered how currents affect the direction and intensity of a hurricane, and how hurricanes are tracked.  A hurricane is formed when air from a surrounding area with higher air pressure pushed into a low pressure area, which rises. Surrounding air swirls to take its place and clouds are formed as the air rises and cools. Clouds and wind spin and grow, gaining energy from the ocean’s heat and evaporating water.  They lose a lot of their energy when they come in contact with land, and tracking them is extremely vital for our safety. We use satellites to track hurricanes. The movement of a hurricane can be changed by currents. Currents include horse latitudes, gyres, west wind drifts, equatorials, and more. Another movement of the ocean is its tides. Tides are caused by the pull of the moon, and vary depending on where you are in the world. Here on our beaches we have two tides a day, high and low, which move and dispense sand.

            During our sand lab, we looked at sand from various places under a microscope and determined where it was from based on its shape, color, size, etc. This was my favorite lab because it was interesting to see such a miniscule object close up with a distinct shape. I learned how to use the Wentworth scale to determine if the grain was clay, sand, etc. based on the size of the grains. We used the squares on a piece of graph paper as our own scale. There were so many different beaches the sands could have been from- it was like a puzzle. This lab connects very well to our work with currents, because the movement of water has a huge effect on sand- its location, how it got there, and its size. Different currents would carry different groups of sand to different places, and some sand was too big to be transported by water- it was formed by erosion. All of the labs we did can be connected.

            One project that really struck me was our research on plastic in the ocean. Ever since elementary school, I have been quite the environmental activist. I remember seeing pictures of sea creatures trapped in waste such as grocery bags, and getting my mom to switch over to reusables. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been cutting the plastic rings on six-pack holders so they don’t get stuck around the beak of a duck or the shell of a turtle. I felt a strong connection with this activity, though it was a short one. It made my appreciation for this class grow, knowing that we not only learn the technical facts about oceans, but also the creature-related ones. I love learning about how an environment affects the living things around it.

            Overall, I learned so much during this semester of oceanography. It was a great foundation for my future in environmental studies and/or marine biology, and perhaps even an internship at the New England Aquarium. Learning about scientists, explorers, winds, currents, salinity, hydrometers, the moon and tides, different formations in the ocean floor, and more was a fascinating addition to my highschool career. This was a great class and it will have a positive effect on my future studies and career.

~ S.M.

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Students in my classes are required to keep an ePortfolio and to blog their work.  This post provides background and guidelines for the blogging portion of student work. A blog isn’t about being a blog, rather it renders itself as a tool for communicating results, such as:

  • Responding to and commenting on curriculum topics as we study them
  • Creating written projects/ media projects and commenting on each other’s work
  • Reflecting on coursework and individual learning
  • Reviewing and sharing study strategies before tests and quizzes
  • Practicing taking varied points of view on a topic
  • Discussing current events
  • Making classroom suggestions
  • Creating FAQ pages on curriculum topics

Class blogs are subject to the following rules, which you must agree to:

  • I will not use any curse words or inappropriate language.
  • I will not use fighting words or provoke anyone.
  • I will avoid the use of chat language.
  • I will try to spell everything correctly.
  • I will only give constructive criticism.
  • I will not use my full name, or the name of my classmates.
  • I will not plagiarize.

Please note that all posts and comments are moderated for content before being published.

Consequences of Violating the Agreement

I recognize that breaking any of these rules could lead to any of the following consequences depending on severity and repetition:

  • warning
  • deletion of some or all of the post
  • temporary loss of blogging privileges
  • permanent loss of blogging privileges
  • referral to the school administration

Assessment Rubric for Blog Posts

Category 3 2 1
Content: Topic Specific topics will vary by assignment but must be related to science. Topic is related to school, but not necessarily science. Topic does not relate to science or school.
Content: Body Post includes a 1-2 paragraphs. Post is less than 1-2 paragraphs. Post does not include a summary, but includes a URL to an article.
Sources Blog post includes a hyperlinked references to additional clarifying information. Blog post includes a URL to additional information, no hyperlinks. References  are missing.
Images  Post includes an image with a caption and is hyperlinked to its original source. Post includes the URL for at least 1 image Post does not include an image.
Questions Post includes 2-3 (science-based) questions in your post. Post does not include questions.
Tags or Labels Post includes 2-3 labels or tags. Post is unlabeled and untagged.

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One Student’s Reflection 

I like learning about marine environment and ocean structures because I plan on becoming a part of the fishing and chartering business after I graduate college. I plan to buy a boat and charter with my brothers and by learning about the oceans will increase our skills and our ability to be successful in that business. By learning about currents, tides, depth, etc we will be able to navigate, confidently, in the open ocean to areas where healthy, ample fish can be caught. By learning basic navigating skills, we will never have to worry about getting lost or stranded if our technology fails, as well as returning our visitors safely back home. As well as learning about the structural aspect if the marine environment, I am interested to learn about the sea-life in marine-biology next semester. I think it will benefit us by understanding what fish and other species are edible, non-edible (and what signs to look for), endangered, popularity in the market, and whether or not it will be a successful catch in a day’s trip. Every piece of knowledge we can learn will benefit us in the future.

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One month of casual moon watching just barely breaks the surface of questions that could be asked and discoveries to be uncovered. Our one month of moon watching in New England was further hampered by frequent cloudy skies that blocked moon sightings. Initially, most students resisted keeping the moon journals, because they felt that looking at the moon each night was a pointless exercise, having “learned” the moon phases in elementary school. These students are now juniors and seniors in high school.

The assignment called for students to, each day, record their sighting of the moon and shape a question about that sighting. Their drawings, observations, and questions were to be assembled in a small booklet, which could be purchased or made from a stack of file cards, with each day on a separate page. Each entry was required to include date, time, and an indication of altitude and direction. I provided the students with daily tide information, and several times over the month data was shared in class. Students who stuck with the assignment, particulary the “ask a question” portion of it, found it surprisingly interesting and gained new understandings. Here are a few of the questions they had:

  • What is the angle [degree of inclination] the moon is at tonight?
  • How fast does the moon rotate?
  • How many hours is the moon out each day?
  • How much of a change is there each day?
  • How can no moon be visible at all?
  • Why can’t you always see the moon?
  • How many craters are on the moon? How deep are they?
  • How high does the moon go in the sky?
  • Does the height the moon rises to change with the seasons?

Many students turned in work that was no more than hand-drawn phases of the entire month, as gleaned from an internet site.

At the end of one month, students were to write a full page analysis that demonstrated how their thinking proceeded during this work and comparing tide data with moon phase observations. Portions of their reflections include:

“While doing my moon journal out of school, I seemed to learn a lot. It rekindled the things I learned in elementary school, about the Moon’s waxing and waning phases. Following the moon phases was kind of cool. One thing I missed was the connection between the tides and the moon phases. We added tide heights to the moon journal entries we did at the very beginning, but I never found out the connection. I feel as though that is an important piece that I am missing. Overall, the Moon in the days we were assigned to view it changed a lot. I really got the feeling that the Earth and the Moon are orbiting in space, and stuff, because the moon was always a different height in the sky and was constantly changing phases. Hopefully we will be going over the whole tide stuff  because I am very interested in them.”

“Through this activity it has brought back memories of moon journals in younger grades and I hope to learn about these phases more during class.”

“When we started this project, I did not understand where we were going to go with it. As we started to observe the moon I found myself noticing things that I never would have seen before. I also never knew that the moon had so much to do with the ocean tides.”

“This assignment was ok. It got a little boring after a while because the moon would be the same shape every night. I did this assignment in Elementary and 8th grade as well so it wasn’t anything new. Asking a question every night got a little tough. It was hard thinking of moon questions that I didn’t already ask.”

“The information recorded in my moon journal included the time I saw the moon, the angle of the moon, and a drawing of how it looked. The journal shows its phases from waxing to full to waning. I thought this was very interesting. I also thought it was interesting the way the angle and time of observation were directly correlated.”

 Reading these reflections highlights the need for more work, both in and out of class. While we discussed our observations during the first two weeks, I thought I had lead them far enough that they could continue on their own, which does not seem to be the case. The students are also wanting me to explicitly answer their questions, rather than continuing on their own and discovering for themselves. This makes me unhappy because I wish for them to have ownership of their discoveries, rather than me sticking them with factoids. As I was collecting the journals, I asked the students “Did anyone notice that Jupiter was full last week?”, expecting questions about the idea that Jupiter could be “full”; not a single student commented.

The moon acts as a clock for the planet that drives the tides of the oceans, the great lakes, and other fluids. Most humans are too involved with other pursuits to notice the effects of the moon on the planet and their lives, but animals, such as fresh water fish and migrating birds, have not tuned it out.  What else does the moon affect? What if there were no moon?

My students will be asked to continue their journaling and their observations, and I am hoping they will make their own authentic discoveries.

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