15 Things We Learned This Week!

What did you learn this week? Let us know in the comments or at education@ngs.org. This week, we learned … … the Mariana Trench is so deep, you can hear earthquakes above you.   … Mongolia is changing all its addresses to three-word phrases. (is.this.future?)   … ships are too big.   … the problem with professional development.   … the most sophisticated science lab … Continue reading 15 Things We Learned This Week!

Scientists Go Deep, Deeper, Deepest

SCIENCE The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is undertaking an investigation of one of the most mysterious places on Earth: the Mariana Trench. (Christian Science Monitor) Use our lesson plan to learn more about “Protecting the Mariana Trench.” Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit. Discussion Ideas Read through our terrific activity “Protecting the Mariana Trench.” Adapt … Continue reading Scientists Go Deep, Deeper, Deepest

Imagining the Journey

Shannon Switzer is an award-winning photographer, published
writer, and National Geographic Young Explorer whose work focuses on
ocean conservation.

Diving down in a sub to the Challenger Deep, which James Cameron successfully accomplished Sunday, is pretty incredible. But my dream is to free dive to the bottom and walk along it, exploring with my own two feet and hands, instead of via a machine.

It’s crazy talk, but often the craziest ideas are the most fun to imagine.

Shannon_Jellyfish.jpgTry this with your class: Have them envision a trip seven miles down to the bottom of the ocean at Challenger Deep. Ask them to describe how they would get down there and what they think they might discover, both as they descend and once they’ve reached the bottom. Have them pay attention to specific sensory details in their narrative: the temperature of the water as they go deeper, the colors they see, if they taste anything, and how things feel when they touch them. Encourage them to think about and elaborate on the way they use each of their five senses as they interact with the environment in their story.

To help get their creative juices flowing, conduct a short lesson on deep-sea life that has been documented, showing them photos or illustrations of deep-sea creatures. Encourage them to be as creative and out-of-the-box as they so desire. For example, perhaps they feel like having a conversation with a dumbo octopus at six miles down–great! This is a unique way for them to practice constructing dialogue.

In addition, the exercise provides an opportunity to discuss concepts such as “show, don’t tell,” by encouraging them to use literary devices like similes, metaphors, personification, imagery, and sensory description to create a scene. Write one yourself and share it with the class. Push your students to get as far-out as they like. The more creative they are, the more exciting of a mind journey it will be.

Now let’s go!

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Why Explore the Unknown?

Lori Roberts is a high school biology teacher in Muscle
Shoals, Alabama. Lori is a leader in ocean education and is a graduate
of National Geographic Education’s two-year professional development
program, the National Teacher Leadership Academy.

Students are interested in exploration of the unknown, however, most of my students know very little about ocean exploration or the explorers involved in these expeditions.  I wanted to understand their perception of ocean exploration, so I placed them into small groups and asked them to brainstorm reasons why we should explore the deep trenches of the seafloor, such as the Mariana Trench. I received a variety of responses:

  • To find new species
  • Make a new discovery
  • New discoveries lead to new inventions
  • It will improve our understanding of Earth
  • It’s cool to be the first one to go where no one else has been before (Kids enjoy competition in and out of school.  Competition encourages them to be their best.)

Many are calling the Mariana Trench the last frontier. In 1960, Don Walsh became the first American to descend almost 36,000′. Don Walsh, a U.S. Navy Captain, was only 28 at the time. Walsh, now 80, was invited by James Cameron to hang out with the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition team. He was a witness on the adventure.

30720.jpgFilmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron is
congratulated by ocean explorer and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh, right,
after completing the first ever solo dive 35,756 feet down to the
“Challenger Deep,” the lowest part of the Mariana Trench. Walsh took the
same journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench 52 years ago in the
Trieste, with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron’s
dive in his specially designed submersible was part of DEEPSEA
CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National
Geographic Society, and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. Photograph by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic.

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Cramped Quarters

Lori Roberts is a high school biology teacher in Muscle
Shoals, Alabama. Lori is a leader in ocean education and is a graduate
of National Geographic Education’s two-year professional development
program, the National Teacher Leadership Academy.

James Cameron is obviously not claustrophobic. As the pilot and only crewmember of DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, he will be working in a very small space at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.


Cameron is an avid explorer with over 70 submersible dives to his credit. While aboard the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible, Cameron was in a pilot sphere so small that he was not even able to extend his arms. Photograph by Charlie Arneson.

Cameron will sit within a sphere inside the sub. The sphere is formed externally from 6.4cm of steel. The interior compartment is 109cm in diameter and filled with electronic equipment and life support systems. Research proved that a sphere would be the best shape to withstand 16,000 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure. But how will Cameron be able to work comfortably in such cramped quarters?

Help your students to experience what he will feel with this simple lesson.

Continue reading “Cramped Quarters”