For three packed days in April, over 400 students from public, private, and informal science education programs across New Jersey came to the Cook Campus Center in New Brunswick for “Rutgers Ocean Days,” an annual event celebrating the ocean as well as the scientific accomplishments of the students from grades 3-12.
This year’s event was set to the theme of “Our Changing Ocean.” Topics related to the theme varied on each of the three days, focusing on a grade-appropriate subject related to the New Jersey state science standards. “Fish & Adaptations” was the focus for grades 3-5; “Fish & Climate Change” for grades 6-8; and “Climate Change & the Ocean” for grades 9-12.
The goal of this annual event was to excite and engage students in ocean science through a range of hands-on activities focused on current marine science research conducted by Rutgers oceanographers. Activities included learning about fish, exploring a glider and testing ocean water and were facilitated by several faculty, staff and students drawn from the marine science program at the university.
According to Kristin Hunter-Thomson of the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, which hosted the event, “it encourages students to develop questions and participate in an inquiry-based scientific experiment or research project in their classrooms that builds upon their ocean knowledge.”
In groups of five, the students were asked to come up with a research question to investigate either through a research project or a scientific experiment that related to the daily topic. They then completed their investigations and prepared either a poster or film to summarize their findings.
“Through their investigations, students become actively engaged in ocean science and then act as science communicators and peer educators when they present their results at the end of the day,” added Hunter-Thomson.
The participants, grades 3-12, some of whom are home-schooled youth, hailed from towns around the state, including Paterson, Plainfield, Bradley Beach, Kearny, Parlin, Colts Neck, Ramsey, East Orange, Somerset, Neptune, Marlboro, North Plainfield, Barnegat, Pennington and West Milford.
Rutgers Ocean Days is sponsored by East Coast MARE (Marine Activities, Resources and Education) and the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, and funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.