Science at sea may lead to student success

Chief scientist Robert Cowan, left, and Taft High School chemistry teacher Andy Bedingfield examine the ISIIS camera sled leading up to its deployment from the Research Vessel Atlantis. (Photo by Bret Yager)

News-Times Managing Editor Bret Yager is currently tagging along with an expedition aboard the Research Vessel Atlantis, a group of 21 scientists who are trying to better understand the complex food web off the Oregon coast.

Yager is chronicling this voyage and will be submitting a number of stories from sea, the first of which appears in this edition. It focuses primarily on Andy Bedingfield, a Taft High School chemistry teacher who is one of two Oregon coast teachers brought aboard through the National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience Teachers program. During this 10-day voyage, Bedingfield is helping the scientists perform their research, and from his experience aboard the Atlantis, he hopes, in turn, to be able to give his students more than just book learning. He wants to bring their classroom studies alive. “I really see my classroom in Taft as a lab for creating cutting-edge teaching,” he said. “It’s deeper learning, it lasts longer and it’s more fun.”

Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have made it possible for people outside of their ranks to benefit from being part of research excursions like this. And what a benefit that is. It can ignite a passion in teachers like Bedingfield, who then can pass that spark along to their young learners. The research being done at sea is certainly valuable in its own right, but this opportunity to perhaps inspire the next generation of researchers and scientists could literally be life changing.

There is so much cutting-edge marine research going on in our area, and it truly is becoming a big part of what the central coast is known for. We only see that continuing to grow in the future.

And it doesn’t have to be in-depth ocean science research projects like this that enlighten and inspire people of any age. There are many levels of educational opportunities on the Central Oregon Coast. Places like the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center and OMSI’s Coastal Discovery Center at Camp Gray all play a role in helping everyday people gain a little better understanding of the marine environment around them. Even something as simple as visiting a local tidepool can open our eyes to this underwater world.

It really is one of the things that makes this area so special and unique.

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