Beginning in June 2016, SSI has teamed up with the Junior Scientific Dive Team and Looe Key Dive Center in the Florida Keys to promote the Marine Sciences to the next generation of students.
The Junior Scientific Dive Program was developed by Kama Cannon, a doctoral student at University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Kama came to the Florida Keys to create a dive program for young people between the ages of 10-15 that makes a direct connection between education and the real world with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math.
By combining the Next Generation Science Standards, Ocean Literacy Standards, and guidelines from the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS), Cannon developed a cross-curricular place-based Marine Science program that takes advantage of the local Florida Keys environment and resources.
Cannon contacted Will Fox, General Manager and SSI Instructor Trainer/Certifier, of Looe Key Dive Center to coordinate the logistics of the program. Looe Key Dive Center committed by donating classroom, pool, boat space, and rental equipment, and SSI providing the Training Materials.
The program started with a full class of 16 students. “What we found is that we had a mix of students who weren’t reaching their full potential in school because either they weren’t challenged or didn’t see a practical need for what they were learning in school,” stated Cannon. “What is also exciting is that the class is predominantly female, especially girls from culturally diverse backgrounds, which are significantly under-represented in the math and science fields at all levels of school and industry. By emphasizing the scuba humanities and environmental science aspects, females were much more interested in the program.”
Since its inception, this program has exploded into something very special. Marcella, age 13, is about ready to complete her 50th dive. “The math we do here is real physics and math. The problems I solve here is what keeps me and my buddies alive. And we are all doing scientific research, not just reading about it. I am just finishing 8th grade and I just found out I won a four year scholarship to any Florida state school! I was not sure of what I wanted to focus on but now I’m interested in Marine Science.”
All students are also continuing their diving education with SSI Specialty programs. As one of their goals, the group got to dive and map an actual ship wreck located in the Upper Keys, help MOTE Marine Lab with their Coral Bleach Watch program, and transplant baby corals with the Coral Restoration Foundation. Elizabeth, age 13, summed it up nicely – “That was the coolest thing I have ever done in my life!”
Validating her initial concept, Cannon found that the real-world relevancy of what the kids were learning positively impacted their motivation both in the program and in science classes at school. “Despite being time consuming, academically challenging, and physically demanding, the actual projects that the group did were perceived as more meaningful than just regular school work. Scuba diving is challenging and the kids are challenged,” explained Cannon.
All of the Junior Scientific Divers are quite proud of their accomplishments and their ratings as both scuba divers with an emphasis on the scientific side. Cheyenne, age 13 explained: “I enjoy having the ability to constantly use my brain, to problem solve and work with science diving tools. Our learning is interactive. Another thing I love is that we perform procedures underwater that some people have trouble with on land!”
The environment is important to all of us and to reach out to the youth of today and engage them in the marine environment and sciences is truly exciting,” states Jeff Saenger, SSI Director of Sales. “We at SSI are committed to educating people on the aquatic environment and there is no better place to start or to invest in than the youth of today.”
Cannon further summed it up: “As an educator, it’s been very rewarding to see the growth in maturity, self-confidence, and academic motivation, especially in the girls. This is a program that could work anywhere.”
“It’s been a team effort between the group leaders, SSI, and Looe Key Dive Center and its staff. And it’s a lot of work sometimes, but also a lot of fun,” added Fox. “Overall, it’s a great program and everybody involved has benefited. We’re already gearing up for the 2017 group.”
For more information about this program, contact Kama Cannon +1 910-686-0399 – firstname.lastname@example.org or Looe Key Dive Center at +1 305-872-2215.