Oceanography 101 – The First Two Months

Hoonah City Schools is in its second semester of partnering with HIA and the University of Alaska Southeast to offer dual enrollment science courses! This is a great opportunity for students to gain college credit and explore major marine themes relevant to ocean and coastal management. Fisheries Technology 120: Fisheries of Alaska was offered in 2021, and now, five students are enrolled in Oceanography 101. With a strong basis in both, students set themselves up for continuing education and potential careers in a field underrepresented by native Alaskans.

Students use iPads to watch lectures and modules and our goal is to keep the material engaging with outdoor activities and guest speakers. We’ve been fortunate enough to be joined by Judith Dax̱ootsú Ramos, Professor of Anthropology, and Indigenous Studies at UAS. During a week focused on waves and tides, she told us stories related to Raven and the tides. She shared clips of her father speaking about understanding the waves and currents, and taught us about some of the traditional tidal technology used by Lingít historically. Separately, we read eyewitness accounts of the effects of volcanoes and tectonic plate movement. Native voices don’t always make their way into science books, making them important to include in a course like this.

We also deployed invasive species monitoring plates with the help of HIA’s Coastal Resilience Manager, Sean Williams. The plates will be collected in June to look for the presence of foreign tunicates and other small organisms. This, along with a session of water sampling we did in the harbor, were used to get students accustomed to scientific tools and methods. It’s important for them to see that the waters around us are changing. They are always changing on a seasonal level, but also on a larger scale that mirrors changes being seen outside of Hoonah.  

In addition to reading and writing assignments, Oceanography 101 students need to complete three creative projects. To assist with this requirement, we enlisted the aid of Stephanie Harold, Art/Science Integration teacher at Hoonah City Schools. She gave us tips to get sketches of the coast started. Most importantly, she helped us notice some of the features we can take for granted when we see the same landscape time after time. Students used their sketches to label the major beach features that were learned earlier in the week.

We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from HSC, HIA, UAS, and guest speakers. It’s been a privilege to work with HSC’s High/Middle School Science Teacher Darcy Higgins and UAS Fisheries Tech Professor Laruen Wild. We have quite a few more activities planned for the oceanography course in May! Check back in June for more OCN 101 info.

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