Highlights from NOAA Science Camp

Mick working with students on the dockJISAO partnered with NOAA and Washington Sea Grant (WSG) for the ninth annual NOAA Science Camp in Seattle, with two sessions held during the weeks of July 18-22 and July 25-29, 2011.  During each week of the camp, 52 middle-school-aged campers worked toward determining the cause and impacts of a hypothetical fish kill in the Puget Sound.  The campers worked in teams with educators, assistants and NOAA scientists on a variety of hands-on activities which highlighted techniques used by JISAO scientists in their work.

JISAO scientists Mick Spillane, Drew Hamilton, Fred Menzia, Sonya Brown, and Nick Bond led oceanography activities demonstrating water sampling and how various forms of data are collected and analyzed. Science Camp participants also participated in activities showing how actions throughout watersheds are important to the coastal environment; how NOAA navigational charts are made; how marine mammal movements, identification, diet, population and genetics are studied; how wind and pressure affect our weather forecast; the challenges faced by salmon in their environment and in the management arena; the decisions that are made when restoring habitat; how oil spills affect the environment and move with the wind and currents; and the equipment and techniques used by NOAA divers. At the end of the week, the campers applied the knowledge they had learned during the activities to investigate the fish kill, and they presented posters on their results to the scientists and to their families and friends.

The 2011 camp introduced a new Junior Leadership Program, aimed at teens going into 9th and 10th grade.  This program introduced teens to leadership techniques and career opportunities within NOAA. This year’s camp also included a follow-up of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The NOS’s Office of Response and Restoration (Emergency Response Division) gave an update of what caused the oil spill and what NOAA is still doing to help with the recovery. Numerous examples of local contributions to the response effort also connected the spill to campers’ everyday lives and highlighted how the concepts that campers are learning at NOAA Science Camp are directly applicable to situations such as the Deepwater Horizon spill.

NOAA Science Camp’s unique approach demonstrates NOAA’s wide diversity of science in one integrated educational camp, where campers and their families learn how NOAA offices, such as JISAO, work together to provide information to address environmental issues which affect their daily lives.