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Washington-Lee Teacher Selected for Deep Sea Research Trip

Joan Le during a bio-diversity study of the Chesapeake Bay.A Washington-Lee High School teacher will embark on a 12-day-long National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study that will enhance her science curriculum.

Earth science teacher Joan Le will accompany NOAA scientists in conducting “an on-going population survey of deep-water coral habitat in the Atlantic Ocean.” according to the agency. As one of NOAA’s “Teacher at Sea” cruises, the trip will give Le an opportunity to observe, research and interact with professional scientists.

“I want to bring real data back into the classrooms and find opportunities for citizen science [for the students],” Le said. “I’m hoping that through this process I can find ways for the students to actually contribute.”

For the first time in her four years at Washington-Lee, Le will teach an environmental studies course in addition to her earth sciences course in the fall. Le said she plans to create projects for both classes with the data she gathers on the trip.

Le said her teaching method is to try and make science a hands-on experience, like a science fair.

“My grades in science weren’t really that good,” the James Madison University alumna said. “I had great teachers, but something about science in the classroom doesn’t always translate how exciting science can actually be. It’s not always easy because there are lots of things to cover.”

Along with writing a blog to chronicle the trip, Le will submit an original lesson plan to NOAA that incorporates what she learned. Her plan will be available online for any science teacher to use in a classroom, Le said. 

“You can kind of look through what other teachers have done, and it’s great because it’s better than [having] matching worksheets,” said Le, who used a similar NOAA lesson plan in her first year of teaching.

NOAA has sponsored Teacher at Sea trips every year for the past 24 years. Out of 200 teachers who applied, Le was one of 25 chosen for research cruises. Le and the NOAA scientists will travel on the ship Henry B. Bigelow, and will set sail Aug. 5 from Newport, R.I.

Studying coral is a significant way to understand past climates, Le said. Although she is excited for the cruise, Le said she is unsure exactly what the trip will entail.

“In the manual, one of the important traits they list is flexibility,” Le said. “So I’m ready for anything.”

Photo Courtesy Joan Le

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