A Virtual Chance to Learn About Science, Sound, and Seagrass

This month, during the pandemic-related school shutdown, students in Chantelle Brangman’s class at East End Primary School explored the science of sound virtually with BIOS science educator Claire Fox by creating “xylophones” using drinking glasses. During their lesson, they explored how changing the amount of water in a glass will alter the pitch. In this example, the glass of blue water produced the highest-pitched sound. Photo by Kaitlin Noyes

In early April, when schools closed to in-person learning in Bermuda due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the BIOS Ocean Academy education team began offering virtual classroom support to teachers and students through the Institute’s Curriculum Enrichment Program. As the closure continues, they encourage teachers island-wide to utilize these science programs taught by BIOS staff.

“During this period of remote learning, we selected topics for virtual lessons based on what the primary schools are currently covering in their science curriculum,” said BIOS science educator Claire Fox, who developed the courses with BIOS director of education and community engagement Kaitlin Noyes. They also chose topics that connected well with marine sciences, including seagrasses and the science behind ocean sound.

In the last few weeks, Fox and Noyes have taught several virtual lessons on these topics to three primary-level classes located on the east end of the island, with hopes of expanding. Each lesson is 45 minutes in length and meets standards that align with the public schools’ Cambridge Curriculum.

“Teachers have been receptive and eager to have support for remote science learning experiences, and their students have been engaged and fun to teach,” Fox said. With in-person learning restrictions expected to continue until early May and possibly beyond, she said she will continue to learn what teachers need and offer additional classes as appropriate.

Students in Brangman’s class watched multiple video demonstrations and ran two experiments as a part of their lesson on sound. One demonstrated how sound travels through solids and the other focused on how SONAR can be used to map the ocean floor. “I would definitely recommend this lesson to my colleagues as both Ms. Noyes and Ms. Fox did an awesome job,” Brangman said.

With the virtual class Ocean Sound: Science of Sound, students learn how sound travels, how it is measured, and the differences between high and low pitch. Fox gives multiple video demonstrations and runs two experiments as a part of this lesson, one to show how sound travels through solids and the other focused on how SONAR can be used to map the ocean floor. Finally, Fox shows students how some BIOS researchers use an instrument called an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler to map ocean currents around Bermuda.

“It’s also a happy coincidence that whales were migrating past Bermuda recently, so we can listen to whale and other ocean animal calls and learn how noise pollution can affect their navigation and communication,” Fox said.

Students in Kelly Rodday’s class at St. George’s Preparatory School watched a virtual video demonstration and discussed one of the main grazers on seagrass in Bermuda, the green sea turtle. The class discussed additional plants and animals that utilize this important habitat in a conversation with BIOS science educator Kaitlin Noyes, who coordinated the lesson.

Noyes said her virtual course Ocean Plants: Seagrass resonates with students who, in a typical year, are preparing for the annual agricultural show held on island each April. In her Zoom classes, Noyes shows students how seagrasses grow differently than some plants on land and explains how seagrass flowers are pollinated. She speaks about green sea turtles, bucktooth parrotfish, and other animals that live in the seagrass beds. The lesson ends with an explanation about efforts on the island by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and BIOS scientists to protect seagrasses from threats that this ecosystem faces from pollution and habitat degradation.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, Fox and Noyes plan to resume in-person course offerings to classrooms on topics ranging from marine plankton and ocean pollution to marine debris and climate change.

St. George’s Preparatory School teacher Kelly Rodday said that ongoing restrictions caused her class to miss this year’s “amazing, educational, and well thought-out” field trip to BIOS. “I look forward to it just as much as the children,” she said. “This year we participated via Zoom and the (BIOS education) team still delivered a dynamic lesson to match our curriculum. They have a fantastic way of presenting advanced material to young learners that challenges them and keeps them interested.”

Are you a teacher interested in BIOS’s science education experiences and classes? Please contact oa@bios.edu