All aboard for science class

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Two teachers are all at sea with their lesson-planning but they are enjoying every minute of it.

Elena Fernandez Lee, 27, a chemistry teacher at Arnewood school, New Milton and Ian Lewis, 49, head of science at Wyvern technology college, Eastleigh, will be whale spotting and discovering what makes us sea- sick in experiments they have devised with Year 9 and 10 pupils.

The teachers, who set sail last Friday, are working alongside eight scientists and four technicians who are exploring 5,000- metre deep submarine canyons eight kilometres off Portugal.

The Classroom@Sea project is part of the Eurostrataform research project, funded by the National Environmental Research Council and the European Community.

Mr Lewis said: "We are going to make video diaries of things like a day in the life of the captain. Another idea was to track currents by throwing plastic bottles with a note inside asking whoever found the bottle to email us. But there are strict rules on sea littering and we were not allowed to do this."

The two won a competition open to Hampshire and Isle of Wight teachers held by the Southampton Oceanography Centre which is co-ordinating the project.

Teachers sent in their CVs and the experiments they proposed to conduct on the ship.

In addition to the whale log and a sea-sickness chart which takes account of wind and wave direction and what you have eaten, Mr Lewis and Mrs Fernandez Lee will also be looking at the working of the ship's engine and how fresh water is extracted from salt water.

Mrs Fernandez Lee said: "Often children cannot relate science to the real world and they become demotivated. This is a way of showing them that science can lead to an exciting career."

Mr Lewis added: "Most of the questions the students have asked have been realistic, and I hope they will share the thrill of discovery with us while we are on board."

Classroom@Sea co-ordinator Dr Vikki Gunn, 28, is posting the results of the tasks on a website hosted by the Southampton Oceanography Centre. She said:

"This is a way of getting kids to think about doing geology and oceanography at A-level and as a degree. Most of them think waves, sea, fish and this will show them that there is more to it than that."

Mr Lewis and Mrs Fernandez Lee underwent survival training at Warsash Maritime Centre, Southampton for the two-and-a-half week cruise on board the Royal Research Ship Charles Darwin. "We have been setting up the website, practising getting wet and preparing class work for while we are away," said Mrs Fernandez Lee. "So, watch out sea monsters here we come."

The next Classroom@Sea research cruise will be from the Gulf of Cadiz, western Spain, to Norway next year.

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