Connecting local schools to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands via the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 28, 2014

Barbara Mayer, a US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) volunteer and also a retired school teacher, organized a program last summer to connect local schools with scientists in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) on board the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette. Barbara provided the students background information on the habitat, wildlife and living conditions in the NWHI and also did a hands-on project of sifting monk seal feces (chocolate pudding) to see what monk seals eat. Each student also filled out a mock volunteer job application to work in the NWHI and also wrote down questions to ask the scientists about the wildlife, living conditions on the islands and on the ship, and why the scientists went into their respective fields.

Students participate in a videoconference with scientists on the Sette.
Students participate in a videoconference with scientists on the Sette.

The scientists were then brought to the classroom via Google Hangouts, a free video conference done over the internet, where the students read their questions and the scientists answered them face to face. Thanks to the wireless capabilities aboard the Sette, the scientists were also able to bring the computer to different places outside and around the ship to give the students a first-hand view of the scientist's surroundings.

A total of 80 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students (including 4 teachers) from 'Iolani and Punahou schools participated in the 3 education and outreach sessions. On July 11th Jessie Lopez, with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP) and Chief Scientist on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, and John Klavitter, USFWS Deputy Refuge Manager at Midway Atoll, did a Google Hangouts session with the 'Iolani students when the ship was in port at Midway Atoll. The next two sessions were held with students at Punahou School on July 18th and Jessie, along with Brenda Becker also with the HMSRP and Joe Spring with the Marine Turtle Research Program participated in those video conferences while at sea. The Google Hangouts sessions were very successful and were fun for the scientists and the kids alike!