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ODU Education Profs to Lead Fifth-Graders in Buoy Building Project as Part of NOAA-Funded Summer Academy

A group of fifth-graders from Portsmouth Public Schools will become young scientists the week of July 26-30 when they help design, build and deploy a large observational buoy for the collection of water quality data in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The 15 youngsters are taking part in Project SEARCH Summer Academy, which is being offered by Old Dominion University's Department of STEM Education and Professional Studies in collaboration with ODU's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, NOAA and Portsmouth Public Schools.

The academy, which is free to the participants, was funded by a grant from NOAA B-WET, an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, experiential learning in the K-12 environment.

Daniel Dickerson (pictured), an associate professor of science education in ODU's STEM education department and leader of the weeklong academy, said the buoy project offers the students "an opportunity to engage in authentic scientific inquiry and make a positive impact in their community." He noted that the buoy the students build will be used by citizens, schools and governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

On the first day of the academy, the students will take part in a Build a Buoy Challenge, where they will learn about density, buoyancy and center of gravity as they work in teams to build and test small-scale models. In subsequent activities, they will convert their creations into observational buoys using analog thermometers and digital probeware, Dickerson said.

Helping with the academy project during the week will be Petros Katsioloudis, an ODU assistant professor of technology education, who will conduct activities that explore the difference between communication methods for observational buoys. He will also introduce design principles to the participants, which they will use to design their buoy.

Robin Dunbar, from the Elizabeth River Project, will meet with the students on Thursday to talk about how observational buoys are used to protect the environment and specifically how the buoy they are building will be used to support the efforts of the ERP.

Throughout the week, the students will learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, STEM-related careers, and environmental stewardship and community engagement.

The Project SEARCH Summer Academy will meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Portsmouth's Victory Elementary School. On the final day of the program, July 30, the students will head to City Park in Portsmouth, where they will test their large observational buoy and launch it into the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. The launch is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

This article was posted on: July 22, 2010

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