Introducing Students to the Mariana Trench

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.

Rachel Carson said, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction of our race.”

I believe that what space exploration did for technology, ocean exploration will do for conservation. People need to have intrinsic motivation to care about the deep blue sea. One way to do this is by using the “race to the bottom of the sea.” Teach about the Mariana Trench and treat the topic with the same sort of excitement that was used to drive the space race.

I lead with a question such as, “Why do we know more about outer space than we do about the deep sea?” Many students do not know that we could map the moon before we were able to map the ocean floor. One of my students, Harris M., thinks that, “space travel sounds more glamorous to people.” He also told me that, “because the technology is already in place, space travel is easier.” After all, we have more processing power in our cell phones today than was on the Apollo 11 (according to Popular Science).

30261.jpgChallenger Deep is the deepest point in the ocean. Give this to your
students as a topic to research online. Have your students answer
questions like: How deep is Challenger Deep; how did it get its name;
and who were the first explorers to travel there? Explain the history
behind the original journey using the bathyscaphe Trieste sea vessel.
Show photos or figures of the Mariana Trench.

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