This article appeared as "Under the Sea" in the Fall 2022 issue of Independent School.
Dijanna Figueroa had the rapt attention of Chadwick School (CA) students last spring as she talked about undersea biology and geology in the center of the Pacific Ocean—from the perspective of actually having been there.
Figueroa, a science teacher at the school, was giving a class presentation about her three-week expedition aboard the Nautilus, a sophisticated exploration vessel, hosted by the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET). She was one of 12 science communication fellows from schools, science centers, and nonprofits nationwide selected to join the 2022 expedition season. The vessel explored the depths of one of the largest marine-protected regions in the world. Figueroa’s job was to help educate others about the expedition’s work to explore the geology, biology, and hydrography of the region, with an emphasis on the important role of technology.
Figueroa was among about 50 people onboard the Nautilus, which carries a number of undersea vehicles and sophisticated sonar equipment to explore and map the ocean floor. She hosted the livestream from the communications station eight hours a day and also hosted live ship-to-shore classes for schools, camps, and other groups involving some 2,700 learners in 13 states, one territory, and three other countries. The livestream had 263,000 views.
“One of the major goals of our Nautilus exploration program is to motivate the next generation of explorers in STEAM fields,” says Allison Fundis, OET’s chief operating officer.
Figueroa’s lessons reached students in several classes at four levels at her school. “While the kindergarteners are being exposed to sea life and the deep sea world, high school students are learning first-hand about ocean exploration and engineering while constructing their own underwater robots related to those aboard the ship,” she says. “I do lessons about adaptation and the biology of the deep sea but also highlight things related to ocean careers—the scientists, mappers, communications specialists, and also the people who are working with all the technology that allows for this type of exploration.”
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