Ocean explorer shares wonders
By Kelly Feser Eells
A man Vanity Fair magazine calls the "Indiana
Jones of the oceans" spoke at Buena High School in Ventura
Wednesday - an event that two Mira Monte Elementary School classrooms
had been buzzing about for weeks.
Indeed, oceanographer and adventurer Dr. Robert Ballard has had
fans in Chris Hess' and Carol Paquette's Gifted and Talented
Education classes since the beginning of the 2002/2003 school
Renowned the world over for finding the "graves" and
remains of the Titanic, the Lusitania and PT-109 (the doomed
World War II patrol boat piloted by Lt. John F. Kennedy), Ballard
is also the founder of the JASON Project: a multimedia, interactive
science program that has been "... turning kids on to the
wonders of the world" for 14 years. And the JASON Project
has been the cornerstone of this year's (science and technology-focused)
Every year since 1989, a Ballard-led team of explorers has taken
participating classrooms to a different part, or parts, of the
globe via a 200-plus page curriculum; maps; models; referrals
to, or "televisits" with, research affiliations; membership
to Team JASON Online; supplementary videos; and access to live
broadcasts of the culminating expeditions. Every year, the project
answers three core questions: (1) What are nature's dynamic systems?
(2) How do these systems affect life? (3) What technologies do
we use to study these systems and why?
But, because every project is different - JASON VIII, for example,
"Journey from the Center of the Earth," explored the
world's geothermal hotspots, while JASON III, "The Galapagos
Islands ... followed in the footsteps of Darwin" - there
are as many different paths to the answers as there are different
discoveries along every path.
This year's project, JASON XIV, "From Shore to Sea,"
is, like JASONS I-XIII, ambitious. Yet, early into the curriculum,
students of all ages were making enthusiastic connections between
ecology, kelp forests, marine ecosystems; biodiversity and more
-the kind of response Ballard hopes will inspire "in children
a lifelong pursuit of learning.
"Kids love to ask 'why?' They're passionate about learning
before they even realize they're learning," he smiled. "After
the Titanic, I got thousands of letters from kids asking me,
'how can I do what you do?' But without taking ten years of chemistry,
oceanography, geology, of course! Well, exploration, discovery:
these are what spark imaginations. Kids love discovery, exploration,
adventure; so do I. And science, which leads to discovery ...
and can always surprise us."
Hess and Paquette spark their students' imaginations by example:
They have been "as fired up and excited" about the
project as they were last September (when they first introduced
it to parents) and continue to enhance the curriculum with both
group and individual projects, recommended literature, e.g.,
"The Island of the Blue Dolphins," "The Case of
the Missing Cutthroats," "20,000 Leagues Under the
Sea," and team teaching.
Though hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic JASON XIV participants
would object, Ventura and Santa Barbara County's student Argonauts-in-training
cannot help but feel as if they are enjoying the "From Shore
to Sea" project a little more than anyone else.
This year, the focus is on the Channel Islands National Marine
Sanctuary, its waters, and the islands of Channel Islands National
Park, all of which make up the project's "laboratory,"
and all of which are, essentially, in Ventura and Santa Barbara
County students' back yard. Ojai resident and native Chumash
Julie Tumamait-Stenslie participated in the project, demonstrating
Paquette's and Hess's classrooms have studied the ecologies of
Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Frenchy's Cove (West Anacapa
Island), as well as maritime culture and its impact on these
In addition, JASON XIV partners with research affiliates Santa
Barbara Museum of Natural History; Santa Barbara Maritime Museum;
and UC Santa Barbara.
"It's just an amazing opportunity," said Hess.
JASON XIV's live expedition broadcast from Channel Islands National
Marine Sanctuary is underway, now through Feb. 7. Check local
listings for air time.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
TUMAMAIT-STENSLIE was a featured participant in the JASON Project's
latest multimedia venture, which will air on the National Geographic
channel today at 5 p.m.