Take a Deep Dive into Ocean Exploration
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With virtual experiences and distance learning resources in high demand, the farthest reaches of the natural world are now more accessible than ever. Thanks to cutting-edge content provided by University of Rhode Island scientists and researchers through the Ocean Exploration Trust, students can now travel to uncharted regions on Earth – the deepest fathoms of the sea – from their own computers.

Commemorating World Oceans Day on June 8, the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, the Ocean Exploration Trust, and Rhode Island PBS Education Services announce Ocean Exploration: Inner Space, a new immersive digital series for learners and educators. The collaboration pairs extraordinary, never-before-seen footage with creative lesson modules, to present and explore various facets of deep-sea missions.

“The launch of the ’Ocean Exploration’ series for PBS LearningMedia is a strong example of the successful results derived from our long-standing relationship with the University of Rhode Island,” said Rhode Island PBS President David W. Piccerelli. “We are proud of this work that mutually benefits our organizations and the public, and look forward to the next chapter.”

“This collaboration takes advantage of the unique strengths of both organizations, combined with input from local STEM educators, to create a dynamic instructional resource,” said Jon Rubin, director of Rhode Island PBS Education Services.

“As the world leader in supporting telepresence-based ocean exploration missions, the URI Graduate School of Oceanography’s Inner Space Center is excited to launch this new collaboration with Rhode Island PBS Education Services,” said Inner Space Center Director Dr. Dwight Coleman. “Creative partnerships like this are essential as we work to inspire the next generation of ocean stewards.”

The Inner Space Center (ISC) is among the nation's most technologically advanced marine research facilities. Using state-of-the-art telepresence equipment, the ISC's ocean scientists, engineers, education professionals, and video producers conduct fieldwork and compile research from their base of operations in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Each dive is a new opportunity for fascinating encounters with marine life, and upon returning to the surface, archival footage is used by researchers, students, and science communicators.

In a pilot program to bring ocean exploration resources to middle and high school students, three episodes have been adapted for instructional use in grades 8-12 and are currently available through Rhode Island PBS LearningMedia. As a platform, Rhode Island PBS LearningMedia presents free, curated, standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more for teachers and for students. Resources leverage high-quality public media content adapted for instructional use, and are supported by outreach efforts and in-person trainings.

The first installments in the Ocean Exploration: Inner Space series feature a look at the robotic technology used by oceanographers to study seafloor habitats, a visit with University of Rhode Island assistant professor of ocean engineeringDr. Brennan Phillips, and real-time examples of problem solving on the high seas. Viewers can follow the scientists' process as they collect seafloor samples, and go behind-the-scenes with ocean engineers as they work to improve the designs of robotic hands and claws. Lesson plans facilitate added engagement through printable worksheets and online exercises associated with the material.

As a collaborative pilot project, Ocean Exploration: Inner Space tested and demonstrated how using archival footage and creating accompanying educational resources could be combined and adapted for rich learning experiences for middle and high school students. As an online resource, a secondary benefit of the project to share up-close and personal underwater exploration with a wide audience than previously possible. Although the three episodes are independent of each other, collectively they represent the potential for a full library of resources. With additional funding, additional resources will be drawn from thousands of hours of archival footage of undersea exploration, and can be converted into short films with lesson plans, to be shared with students and with the public across the country and even world-wide.

The initial three-piece collection is currently available at Rhode Island PBS LearningMedia. For more information about ongoing ocean exploration projects, visit the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.