Teachers, if your students are beginning to feel the effects of cabin fever, the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies may have a cure. It's educational, it's fun, and it's free -- a walking tour of the college's marine research facilities at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.
Guided by trained volunteers called docents, the tours highlight the college's research on topics ranging from weird deep-sea worms to El Niño, fisheries decline to marsh plants. In addition, students learn about career opportunities in marine-related professions.
The tours may be tailored for middle-school or high-school groups. Each tour typically begins with a 20-minute introductory slide presentation, followed by a walking tour of Cannon and Smith Laboratory buildings.
There, students may walk through an indoor "marsh" and learn how scientists are putting local marsh plants to work in areas far from the sea. They might learn about underwater geysers called hydrothermal vents located over a mile deep on the ocean floor, and find out about the bizarre organisms that inhabit them. They may see the sophisticated scientific equipment used to study the genetic structure of marine life, and watch scientists working in the lab on phenomena ranging from microscopic bacteria to horseshoe crabs.
"At this time of the year, teachers often are looking for ways to break the monotony and re-energize the classroom," says Bob Carnahan, director of the tour program. "Our volunteers enjoy meeting the students and introducing them to the important marine research that's being conducted right here, close to home. Last year, we led tours of more than 15 classes. We hope to welcome many more this year."
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 email@example.com, 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.