>Founded in 2008, Ocean Classrooms combines science education with underwater exploration using cutting-edge technology such as underwater robotic cameras and data-acquisition devices. Ocean Classrooms' main offering, Marine Science 101, is geared toward middle- and high-school students, but anyone can enroll in the program, even working professionals.
>Marine Science 101 can be incorporated into a school curriculum with labs, lectures and discussions, or it can be taken independently online. The content comes from a highly regarded textbook, Life on the Ocean Planet, and the course also incorporates dive-training modules and information on how to affiliate with a local dive center or resort for instruction and certification.
>MARINE SCIENCE 101
>Through text, videos and narrated presentations, the course covers oceanography, marine ecology and the interplay between humans and the marine environment. Additionally, students are given Scuba Slates™ — real-world scuba-diving scenarios that connect marine science with underwater exploration, linking the material learned to its practical application.
>Students in Ocean Classrooms courses experience the underwater world in real time through robotic underwater cameras and data-acquisition systems called Blue EyesM™. This patent-pending system streams continuous live video from various sites including kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Webcams are currently installed in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Channel Islands, and many more sites are slated for installation.
>EYES IN THE OCEAN
>Blue Eyes is the only self-cleaning, submersible camera housing commercially available in the world. An entry-level Blue Eyes system features a fixed, submersible camera housing and a high-definition camera. High-end models allow user-controlled pan, tilt and zoom functions. Sensory equipment can be added to any submersible housing for sampling conductivity, pH, temperature, velocity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and much more.
>Students who complete the academic program may then sign up at an affiliated dive center for pool and open-water sessions and become certified divers. Scuba Schools International (SSI) is currently accepting Ocean Classrooms accreditation, and other training agencies may soon follow suit.
>FROM ACADEMICS TO OPEN WATER
>Graham Casden, the founder and CEO of Ocean Classrooms, credits the success of Marine Science 101 to the fact that it provides a dynamic, new approach that makes learning exciting. "Traditional texts are becoming antiquated, and Ocean Classrooms is on the cusp of where the dive industry is going," he said.
>Casden hopes this type of learning will promote conservation and make young people "ocean ambassadors." Alex Brylske, a dive-industry expert who is Ocean Classrooms' scientific advisor and curriculum consultant, shares this conservation goal. "As Sylvia Earle says, ‘You can't love something that you don't experience,'" Brylske said. "The vast majority of high-school kids will never see underwater, but Ocean Classrooms enables them to do so through a virtual field trip."
>CREATING OCEAN AMBASSADORS
>For schools, Ocean Classrooms offers an opportunity to deliver a modern approach to teaching that supports state and national mandates for science education as well as parental demands for experiential learning, which features problem solving, real-world applicability and holistic thinking. Colorado is the first U.S. state in which schools have adopted Marine Science 101, and plans are under way to launch the program in California and Florida in 2013.
>Learn more or enroll at www.oceanclassrooms.com.
>© Alert Diver —Spring 2013