New Technology Takes Teachers To Gulf Of Mexico

60 teachers from across the Coast, as well as Mobile and Slidell, are taking part in a free workshop at USM Gulf Coast. They're learning how to use a new interactive C-D that allows them to explore the Gulf, and challenges them to find ways to protect it.

Part of the workshop involves conducting lab experiments. Teachers use milk and yeast to learn how low oxygen levels in the water can harm marine life. Dr. David LaHart says this program is all about teaching kids to do science in their own backyard, and their own backyard is the Gulf of Mexico.

The teachers also take a virtual tour, to get an up-close look at the Gulf. They are learning how to use the new CD ROM called Ecoventures: Focus on the Gulf. The program introduces teachers and students to real life problems facing the Gulf of Mexico. It also asks them to come up with some answers to help solve those environmental problems.

The program lets students enter a fictional world of R.U. Green National Park. Students must learn how to manage the park by balancing the environment and development. For example, the owner of a marina does not want to shut down, even though he knows it impacts the environment. So, students must consider issues like oil spills from boats and the safety of marine life, in deciding whether to go ahead and close down the marina.

Dr. LaHart developed the CD. He says airline pilots learn their trade using simulations, so Ecoventures is really a simulation to teach kids how to use science that's involved in the Gulf of Mexico, like farming, agricultural, forestry, and economic development practices. He says students can't take field trips to the Gulf, so this CD ROM is the next best thing.

Teachers hope this fun, yet challenging computer program, can get students excited about the environment. St. Martin Jr. High Teacher Pam Rosetti says it involves a lot of hands-on activities and computers, and students like to use things that are computer-related. Gulfport High School Teacher Regina Watts says it's something the kids can relate to, because the Gulf is so close to home.

The Gulf of Mexico Program at Stennis and USM Gulf Coast co-sponsored the free two-day workshop. If you'd like more information on Ecoventures, or how to sign up for future workshops, you can contact Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159.

By: Trang Pham-Bui