Introduction to the How Do We Explore Collection

Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (mp4, 80.1 MB).




The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer mission offers an exciting new context for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with many opportunities for cross-curricular activities. In fact, with a little imagination there are opportunities for almost every subject area, from English language arts, to social studies, to fine arts. The Okeanos Explorer Education Materials Collection is focused on science and technology, but we try to point out and build on potential linkages with other subject areas as well.

The theme, “How Do We Explore?”, is built around the fact that the Okeanos Explorer is basically going where the charts are essentially blank; literally where no one has gone before. We don’t know what we might find, so it is not necessarily easy to know how to look. A great deal of thought and planning has been devoted to this question, and the exploration strategies developed for the Okeanos Explorer offer some fascinating and exciting teaching opportunities.

Our first lesson, titled “To Explore Strange New Worlds,” introduces the overall strategies and key technologies that are used for ocean exploration aboard the Okeanos Explorer. Other lessons for the How Do We Explore? theme guide additional inquiries into key topics of Telepresence, Multibeam Mapping, Water Column Investigations, and Underwater Robots. Some of these have been adapted from lessons developed for recent NOAA Ocean Explorer expeditions, but most have been created specifically for the Okeanos Explorer education initiative. The first lesson is targeted toward grades 7 and 8, but is easily adapted to other grade levels as well. In fact, the same is true of many other lessons for the How Do We Explore theme, and we encourage you to look over all of these lessons, even though they may be designated for other grade levels.

Because the Okeanos Explorer exploration strategy is highly dependent upon modern technology, there are many opportunities to integrate Technology and Engineering content with core Science and Mathematics curricula, and most lessons include options for hands-on activities that involve manipulations other than paper-and-pencil exercises or Web-based research.

In addition to strengthening Technology and Engineering content, we include these activities to emphasize that field science, and exploration in particular, depend heavily upon problem-solving skills needed to use and maintain complex technology. When equipment breaks down in the middle of a cruise, scientists and crew aboard the Okeanos Explorer need to have the skills to diagnose the problem and get it resolved. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but we need to anticipate that these problems will arise because there are ALWAYS problems and unforeseen difficulties when we do scientific field work.

Some of the manipulative activities in these lessons will involve new skills for students, and possibly for educators as well. We encourage you to adapt these activities to suit your own classroom objectives and resources, and we also encourage you and your students to be creative and adventurous, because the human traits of creativity, curiosity, and a willingness to risk trying new things are important part of how we explore.