Jackie Kane may be the science teacher you always wish you'd had.
She's energetic, full of enthusiasm for her subject, and bursting with ideas about science and how to teach it to her students, say staff and students at St. Ursula Academy, a private all-girls high school in Toledo.
Now, Mrs. Kane, who teaches physics and geoscience, has undertaken one of her more unusual educational endeavors. Since July, she has been accompanying a crew of scientists on a research mission in the Pacific Ocean, aboard a 470-foot ocean-drilling vessel.
Thursday, for the first time since Mrs. Kane joined the two-month-long expedition, St. Ursula students got to see their teacher on the ship via a live Skype Webinar. As well as receiving a tour of the vessel, courtesy of Mrs. Kane, the students heard directly from geologists and other experts on the ship about the research they are doing.
The vessel, called the JOIDES Resolution, is located about 200 miles off the shore of British Columbia on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a boundary between two tectonic plates. Scientists on the ship are taking samples of rocks and water from the ocean's crust and installing seafloor observatories as part of an ongoing research effort to better understand the planet's seafloor.
"So did everybody get their homework done last night?" Mrs. Kane teased, as she showed her students around the ship's deck, laboratories, and living quarters using a laptop camera and headset.
"Yes," chanted the chorus of girls, as they giggled and leaned forward in their seats to get a better look at their teacher's temporary maritime home.
As Mrs. Kane introduced the students to various experts on board the ship, the girls listened intently to explanations of how rocks from the ocean crust differ from those on land, and how scientists are using acoustic waves to study them.
The jovial teacher said she's learning so much on the ship that she's reluctant to go to bed at the end of the day. Scientific work is going on constantly on the ship.
"It's awesome. I don't want to fall asleep at night in case I might miss something," Mrs. Kane said. "I like to think about why things happen, and here everybody has answers. … That's pretty exciting for me."
Her excitement seemed to be rubbing off on her students back in Toledo.
"I think it's so cool!" said Grace Kenney, a 16-year-old junior in Mrs. Kane's honors physics class who was among the students watching her Webinar. "I've learned that there's so much that we don't know about the ocean and the rocks beneath the ocean. It's just one of those things you never think about."
The research expedition, one of several conducted on the JOIDES Resolution, is funded in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Mrs. Kane was selected out of a pool of international applicants to be one of six "outreach officers" aboard the ship. Their job is to develop ways to educate people about the research being done and the results of the scientific studies.
While on the ship, Mrs. Kane has been maintaining a blog about her experiences and sending e-mails and assignments to her students in Toledo. It's something one of her students, 17-year-old senior Kacie Truss, said has made her more interested in science and in the ocean floor.
"This is very exciting," Kacie said, admitting she's usually "not a big science fan."
"It's so interesting to have a lesson from there."
K.C. Kenney, a chemistry and biology teacher at St. Ursula who has been filling in for Mrs. Kane while she is away, said her adventures on the ship are generating a lot of enthusiasm among her students. He said the experience contributes to a movement among educators to get more girls interested in science and thinking about scientific careers.
"Things like this allow for a huge leap forward," Mr. Kenney said. "To see Mrs. Kane out there, I think it's really giving the girls a perspective on the real world of science."
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