Occidental College Marine Science Program Wins $165,000 Eisenhower Grant
Occidental College’s Marine Science Experience (MSE) program, which provides public and private school teachers with oceanographic research opportunities for their students, has been given a $165,236 Teacher and Principal Quality Training and Recruiting Fund (formerly known as the Eisenhower program) award from the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC).
The grant allows the college to continue MSE for a fourth year and increase teacher participation. Fifteen high school and 15 middle school teachers will now be able to take part in the summer program, which enables educators to do research aboard Oxy’s research vessel, the Vantuna. Previously, only five high school teachers participated in MSE each year.
MSE is operated by Oxy’s TOPS program (Teachers + Occidental = Partnership in Science). Now in its 10th year, TOPS reaches 7,500 high school students each year. The program provides access to modern science equipment for teachers who are trained at Oxy to conduct seven teacher-developed lab assignments. TOPS targets students within a 25-mile radius of campus, from Woodland Hills in the west, Rowland Heights in the east, Valencia in the north and Paramount in the south. MSE expects to reach 2,000 students, many of them at underperforming campuses. Program organizers hope to galvanize interest in marine science by offering hands-on assignments. Students, for example, will learn how to collect specimens and water data aboard the Vantuna.
“The sterile process of learning specific facts kills the excitement of science in the minds of many students,” says chemistry Professor Chris Craney, associate dean and director of Oxy’s Undergraduate Research Center. “These students then do not persist in the study of science and are not prepared to grasp the importance of science in their lives as a voter, consumer, employee and citizen. The Marine Science Experience program will help students learn to think, talk and understand science while engaged in authentic experiments under the guidance of experienced teachers.”
The MSE program was launched in 1999 after the college won a prestigious Award for the Integration of Research and Integration (AIRE) from the National Science Foundation. The CPEC grant allows Oxy to hire two resource teachers who, during the school year, will mentor the summer program participants as they introduce marine research in their classrooms. Oxy expects to renew its CPEC funding in each of the next two years.