JoCasta Green became a teacher after she was told as a child she couldn’t be a scientist because she was a girl. In May, the pre-K teacher from Decatur achieved a small piece of her childhood dream by joining a research cruise on board Savannah, the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s research vessel.
Green was one of two teachers on the overnight cruise, some of the first to participate in a cooperative program between the UGA Skidaway Institute and Georgia Southern University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education, or i2STEMe.
“Because I am an elementary teacher, I was afraid that maybe I shouldn’t have applied,” Green said. “However, once I got here and everyone was so interested and wanted to share, I really did learn a lot.”
UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer led the cruise with the aim to hunt, collect and study doliolids, a small gelatinous organism of great significance to the ecology and productivity of continental shelf environments around the world. Green and middle school teacher Vicki Albritton of Savannah, the only teachers on board, were able to actively participate in the research activities.
They helped launch the CTD, or conductivity-temperature-depth, sensor packages mounted on heavy metal frames and deployed plankton nets that concentrated a variety of tiny marine creatures into a small container.
The two teachers then worked with the science team in the darkened wet lab to sort through gallons of water and to isolate the doliolids they were seeking.
“I was hoping to see science in action, and I did that all day long,” Albritton said.
“I got to participate and learn what was going on, and now I have a wealth of information to take back to the classroom.”
Albritton said an experience like the cruise raises teachers’ credibility in the classroom, because the students see the teachers going out to learn more themselves.
“If I want them to be perpetual learners, then I need to demonstrate that same trait,” she said.
Green and Albritton were the second group of teachers to join an R/V Savannah research cruise through the partnership with Georgia Southern’s i2STEMe program. The goal of the program is to improve the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten through college throughout coastal Georgia.
The partnership between UGA Skidaway Institute and i2STEMe is expected to grow. Five additional doliolid cruises are scheduled this year with space available for as many as four teachers on each cruise.
UGA Skidaway Institute also offered two half-day cruises this month as part of i2STEMe’s summer professional development workshop for teachers.
“Teachers are some of our most important communicators,” Frischer said. “They communicate to the next generation, so I think it is really special to be able to bring teachers right to where the research is happening. It gives them a total perspective, not only on what we are doing, but how research works and to communicate that to their students.”