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NU co-op Maggy Hunter, AS'07 (left) teaches a student to use a GPS device to track the distance between surface currents.

Innovative Partnership Hooks Ninth Graders on Marine Science

In what has quickly become another exemplary partnership between Northeastern, the Boston Public School, and local corporate partners, teachers and scientists at the university's Marine Science Center in Nahant are getting kids hooked on science.

"This program not only expands their horizons, but it fits perfectly within the ninth- and tenth-grade science curriculum. Our philosophy is to cover these science requirements in a hands-on, experiential way, using an inquiry-based marine model."

Established in 1967 on coastline just twelve miles north of Boston, the Marine Science Center offers a wide range of outreach programs and learning opportunities, using authentic marine based models to support and enrich the state's stringent K-12 science curricula.

Last summer, the center launched the Massachusetts Young Scientist Investigations into the Sea, or MYSIS Academy, which enrolled thirty upcoming freshmen from Boston Latin Academy for a three-week marine science program.

The students — many of whom had never been on a boat before — sailed aboard the MYSIS, a 50-foot research vessel.

Working with scientists, they gathered oceanographic data, conducted a plankton tow and bottom trawl to collect and study marine organisms, plotted GIS coordinates, and created maps.

"The kids were so excited by this program," observes Ted Maney, director of outreach programs at the Marine Science Center for the past twelve years.

"Most of these students knew little about the Massachusetts coastline or the marine sciences before enrolling in MYSIS. When you take kids this age out on a boat, bring up a net full of fish and dump it on the deck, they are just riveted. They can't believe there is so much cool stuff to learn about marine life.

"This program not only expands their horizons, but it fits perfectly within the ninth- and tenth-grade science curriculum," he adds. "Our philosophy is to cover these science requirements in a hands-on, experiential way, using an inquiry-based marine model."

MYSIS is supported by a $200,000, three-year grant from the Fleet Boston Financial Foundation. The GE foundation has supported other outreach efforts, including oceanography cruises and tide-pool programs for all ninth-grade students at Lynn Classical and the English High School in Lynn.

The New England Biolabs Foundation also provided funds for similar programs for ninth and tenth grade classes in Lynn, Salem, and Gloucester, neighboring communities on the North Shore.

Maney hopes that MYSIS will inspire some of the students to pursue careers in marine sciences. "But, regardless, we're providing an opportunity they would never get in a traditional classroom," he says. "And we're having a tremendous impact on their science education. That in itself is very rewarding."

more...
 
Marine Science Center
 
Massachusetts Young Scientist Investigations into the Sea
  This article was published in the January 2005 issue of Northeastern University Magazine.          

Copyright 2006 Northeastern University. All rights reserved.