Teachers, if you are looking for new ways to spark your students’ interest in science, then consider taking them on a guided tour of the University of Delaware’s research facilities at the College of Marine Studies, Hugh R. Sharp Campus, in Lewes. Here, students can get a first-hand look at science in action.
“The college began the guided tours several years ago as a way to bring the world of marine science to the public,” says Bob Carnahan, director of the tour program. “Almost immediately, the tours became a popular field trip for the schools. The kids are enthusiastic and ask our tour guides lots of questions about what they see — they keep us on our toes.”
Each tour typically begins with a 15-minute introductory video that highlights many of the college’s research activities. The video transports visitors from the beaches of Delaware Bay where scientists collect data to aid in understanding the decline of the horseshoe crab population, to the remote sensing labs in Newark where El Niño and global warming are being monitored and studied.
“This portion of the tour has always been an eye-opening experience for our students,” says Vickie Mockbee, a marine biology teacher at Ceasar Rodney High School in Camden-Wyoming. “The kids are amazed when they hear about the extent of the research that is being done in their backyard, so-to-speak.”
Following the video presentation, trained guides take the students on a walking tour of Cannon and Smith laboratories where the majority of the research in the college’s Oceanography and Marine Biology-Biochemistry programs is conducted. The tours can be tailored to the interests of the students.
On this part of the tour, the students may see sophisticated scientific equipment that is used to study seawater and sediments; they may spend time watching a scientist conduct research on the factors that affect the blue crab fishery; they may stop at the World Ocean Data Information Center and learn how data bases for international climate research are maintained. Students may also walk through a greenhouse filled with marsh grass and learn how scientists are conducting genetic research aimed at improving varieties of salt-marsh plants for wetlands restoration and for development into food and forage crops.
“We look forward to the tour every year,” says Peter McLean, biology teacher at St. Andrews School in Middletown. “The tours have been valuable in showing our students how science is conducted. In addition, a graduate student or faculty member is often available to answer any questions the students might have about their research or career path.”
The free tours may be scheduled for classes of five or more people, Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Requests should be made at least a week in advance by calling the College of Marine Studies at (302) 645-4346, by e-mailing Bob Carnahan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes, DE 19958-1298. The Hugh R. Sharp Campus is accessible to handicapped individuals.