Rockers rocking through the West Pacific – #thefloatingclassroom

Spectacular, sparkling sunrises and colourful, radiating sunsets, cracking thunderstorms accompanied by vibrant, fork and sheet lightning, swelling waves which abate to mirrored incandescent, coloured Pacific blue waters, prevailing winds which swirl around the ship providing a much needed cooling effect to relieve the day’s humidity, volcanic island arcs defined by violently erupted stratovolcanoes and their lava domes and nightly bioluminescent glows episodic revealing themselves in the smashing bow waves of the ship. This is just a taste of the JR world – and yet does not fully capture the experience.

Marilyn, Matt, and Colleen sampling the PETM and the E/O Boundary core sections.

The JR’s motto is Science in search of Earth’s Secrets. So, how is this achieved? The answer is Human Energy. Collaborative, specialised teamwork around the clock ensures that the ship, its drilling operations, support crews and scientists produce drill core that is setting the standard for deep ocean discovery. The result are geological answers which explore new frontiers of geoscience knowledge and research that aids to progress solutions relevant to global societal and environmental situations. The JOIDES is a state of the art diesel powered floating scientific laboratory. The systems are so integrated that the locomotive engines that generate the ships electricity also contribute to the making of its potable water. Everything is efficient here.

So, is it any wonder that the first concept that comes to mind when asked about my JR experience is ‘Energy.’ My name is Suzy Urbaniak and I’m a fortunate Earth Science educator from Perth, Western Australia. For the last two weeks, I have been positively immersed in a unique #lifelonglearning experience which has not only reenergized my professional batteries, but has also exposed me to a world previously ‘unknown,’ one full of the powerful energy of collaboration.

No surprise, my morning energy is dedicated to a detailed scrutinization of Google Earth. An interpretation of the tectonic configuration of the crust, is crucial to set the excitement for the day. We have sailed over a ‘tectonic train wreck,’ a terrain defined by 3 subduction trenches, a submerged continental rift and numerous volcanic island arcs studded with classical stratovolcanoes. A geologists dream, some might say!

However, our journey is coming to an end. Nevertheless the energy within our #thefloatingclassroom is buoyed. Previous blogs have informed you of the variety of learning experiences we have gained and today has been no exception.

This enriching experience has provided renewed vigor to design improved curricula capabilities for my CoRE students. Not only will their knowledge base be enhanced, but also more importantly, the acquired materials such as the smear slides, photographs and foram samples will foster improved scientific inquiry through Cenozoic Climate Change based investigations. The JOIDES data and research library provides relevant and authentic data to utilise in the development of contextual set STEAM based projects for all secondary school levels. The JOIDES day-to-day operation, otherwise acknowledged as ‘STEM on steroids’, is a very good real world, industry example of the CoRE Learning Model. It gives me great confidence to recognise that the STEM/STEAM approach I am implementing in my classes is replicating these actual and authentic practices.

Tom holding up the interstitial water we just squeezed out of our core sample.

The JR experience has provided a greater insight into the importance of understanding the secrets of deep Earth sediments –‘every rock (sediment package) tells a story.’ The integration of diverse, multiple data can be collected and interpreted from these microscopic organisms (gnu gnus), and the magnitude of the geological inferences that can be presented is ‘mind blowing.’ I marvel at the passion, energy and dedication of the scientists who have planned, organised and executed these geological exploration expeditions. Their conclusions and evaluations have greatly contributed to society’s understanding of present day geological and environmental systems. Immediately after JR, my energy will be injected into sharing my experiences and resources with the greater Earth Science community in Western Australia to continue to help promote geoscience literacy and create awareness of STEM career opportunities in the geoscience realm.

Today, wind swept and wind blown, white caps as far as the eye can see; atmospheric circulation has been the strongest we have experienced. Everyone has enjoyed their energy experience, whether walking the deck, sampling Pacific waters, smear sliding and analyzing thin sections in the laboratory, acquiring new knowledge regarding Cenozoic Climate Change Events or presenting their work during the evening’s lightning talks.

Its all about #thefloatingclassroom -the JR.

Guest blogger, Suzy Urbaniak, signing off!