Hebron funds 'floating classroom'

At-sea program provides hands-on learning experience for students

November 4, 2011

Hebron funds 'floating classroom'

The Hebron Project is contributing more than $400,000 to support a Coastal Connections pioneering ocean education program for students in the K-12 school system. The Hebron Project Coastal Explorers Field Program for Schools will operate from Terra Nova National Park and the Marine Institute's Holyrood Marine Base.

The Hebron contribution will be used to acquire new ocean technologies to be used in the existing floating classroom program; to expand the program to accommodate 20 additional schools in 2011-2012; and to pilot a Summer Teachers Institute.

The program is a partnership with Parks Canada, the Marine Institute, and the provincial government departments of Education, Environment and Conservation and Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The Floating Classroom

The floating classroom is a 42-foot inshore tour and research vessel, named the M/V Coastal. The program enables students to learn more about the changing dynamics of the coastal and ocean environment that surrounds them and develop basic skills in the collection of oceanographic, meteorological and biological data. Using state-of-the-art scientific equipment, students learn how to measure water temperature, salinity and pH, record weather conditions and identify a variety of marine species and habitats. Students will also be given an introduction to basic coastal navigation along with seafaring and boating safety skills.

Developed by Captain Jan Negrijn, formerly of the Marine Institute, the floating classroom concept was established to address the gap in ocean-related education in schools, particularly as it relates to the marine and coastal ecosystems of Newfoundland and Labrador. This innovative, at-sea field program has been developed in collaboration with science teachers and curriculum specialists and is linked directly to the curriculum and learning outcomes in various science programs: biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and geography.

"This is education of a different order," said Captain Negrijn. "Hundreds of students have participated in this program. Without exception, students of all interests get excited and involved when they pull up a crab pot and hold a live crab in their hands for the first time, or see live microscopic plankton through the field scopes on the boat."

"The Hebron Project Ocean Education Initiative gives students and teachers the opportunity to learn about the ocean in a hands-on way," said Geoff Parker, Senior Project Manager for the Hebron Project, and Vice President of ExxonMobil Canada Ltd. "As well, the technology used in the program will provide a window into an underwater world not normally accessible to students or even to the general public."

Stimulating Interest in Marine Careers

One of the goals of the ocean education program is to stimulate interest in marine science and expose students to a variety of marine-related careers.

Glenn Blackwood, Executive Director of the Marine Institute, sees the program as an ideal vehicle for community and school outreach. "When we look at the growth of the oil and gas and marine environment sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador, we wonder where the marine scientists, technologists, coastal zone planners and policy makers of the future will come from. This program helps us reach young people and will provide them with a proper foundation in ocean and fisheries science as well as a greater awareness of potential careers," said Blackwood.

"The Hebron Project will require people with scientific and technical qualifications. In particular, we want to encourage young women to consider careers in science and engineering. The Coastal Explorers program is an excellent tool for doing just that," said Parker.

The Hebron Project co-venturers are ExxonMobil Canada Properties (operator), Chevron Canada, Suncor Energy Inc., Statoil Canada and Nalcor Energy.

Additional information is available online at the Hebron Project and Coastal Connections web sites: www.hebronproject.com and www.coastalconnections.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Maria Giovannini
Media and Communications
Coastal Connections Ltd.
709-746-4252
mariag@giocommunications.ca

Lynn Evans
Public Affairs Advisor - Hebron Project
ExxonMobil Canada Properties
709-752-6433
lynn.evans@exxonmobil.com