Ocean Discoveries: 2012 NOAA Bring Your Kid to Work Day: NCCOS Scientists Reach Out to Show Kids Examples of Ocean Research

By Tracy Gill, Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Ms. Tracy Gill

NCCOS Blogger Biography: Tracy Gill has worked as a physical scientist for NOAA for over 30 years. Her main research focus is on the development of maps and marine biological resource products, however she has also been actively involved in outreach and education. In addition to her primary tasks, Ms. Gill has spent time doing fieldwork, trace metal analysis, GIS application development, contracts, grants and web content development. Ms. Gill earned a Masters Certification in Project Management from George Washington University, and a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Management from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Once a year, around the Nation, kids get to take the day off of school and see what it is like where their parents work. At NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, we try and make National Bring Your Child to Work Day (aka Kids Day) an educational experience for all, using it as an opportunity to show the next generation of scientists a bit about the critters we study as well as some hands-on examples of how we do, what we do, whether its investigating animals or mapping corals. Along with other NOAA offices, NCCOS led two educational sessions for the kids to learn about the animals in the ocean.   This year, we did a squid dissection and a “draw your own coral map” session.

After picking up a goody bag packed with educational material, kids’ day involves 2-3 “classes” in the morning, lunch with their parent/sponsor, ice cream after lunch, and a movie.

INSIDE A SQUID

NOAA staff spent the morning helping kids dissect and learn about squid. Credit: NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA

One of the sessions that NCCOS’ Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) runs every year is an interactive squid dissection.  As the group of 10 to 12 year olds pile into the classroom, exclamations included:

“Ewww, what’s that smell?!?”
“Can we start now?”
“I’m not touching that thing!”
“Do we get to do more than one?”
“Are those fish?”

But, before they began their dissections, the kids were given a 15-minute presentation, “All About Squid.”  Some of the things the kids learn about include:

a) squid are amazing predators with terrific eyesight and tricks of illusion for protection and escape;
b) they battle with the great whales in deep ocean waters;
c) they have a pen and ink;
d) they are not fish, but rather invertebrates;  e) they come in all colors and sizes;
f) are an important part of the marine ecosystem; and
g) are also a well-known delicacy in many countries.

NOAA staff get ready for the squid dissection before the day begins. Left to Right: Tracy Gill, Marilyn King, Laurie Bennett, Terry McTigue and Deb Lambert. Credit: NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA

Once they learned about the ecology of the squid, it was time for anatomy.  An ancient ancestor of clams and mussels, squid actually have their shell on the inside, called a pen.  And, if you remove the pen and ink sac you can even write your name with it.  After the brief anatomy lesson, each kid dissected their squid and learned about the different body parts and how they work. The kids learned by seeing, smelling and touching, that Squid have three hearts, eight arms, two tentacles, terrific eyes, and a beak-like jaw for eating.  Students were also able to examine (but not dissect) relatives to the squid: an octopus and a cuttlefish.

CORAL REEF EDUCATION:
NCCOS’ CCMA also ran a session about coral reef ecosystems. Kids enter a room that has been transformed into an underwater ecosystem, with fish hanging from the ceiling and the walls covered in images of the ocean floor and ocean animals.

CCMA scientist Chris Jeffery helps students learn about the coral reef ecosystem during the one hour “class” on Kids Day. Credit: NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA/Cordelia Neff

After a brief presentation from our staff on coral reefs and how we use technology to map the reef and surrounding sea floor, the students walk around the room to explore the ‘reef.’ The kids spent some time drawing and coloring the animals they saw around the room. They can ask any question they want about the animals, and the CCMA researchers are there to answer and help the kids understand the marine environment.

NOAA Kids Day is great way to expose students to all sorts of topics of marine science. All over the NOAA Silver Spring campus, approximately 500 kids from ages 5-18 years spent the day learning about some aspect of NOAA – weather, navigation, fishery management, whales, geodesy, mapping, tides, currents, and so much more!  Staff from all of the NOAA line offices pitched in to make an excited learning day at NOAA! Many thanks to all who participated and all the staff who took the day to help out!

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