School of Rock Gives Teachers Hands-on Science Research Experience

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: April 05, 2010

Once a year, approximately 15 teachers trade their classrooms for space on the research vessel JOIDES Resolution or the Gulf Coast Repository at Texas A&M University. These educators are selected to participate in the School of Rock, a professional development workshop for science teachers and informal science educators from across the United States and the member nations of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The School of Rock's goal is to give science teachers hands-on research experience that they can use to enhance their teaching.

"We have two types of programs - ship-based and shore-based," says Scott Slough, associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. "The ship-based expeditions take advantage of transits where the ship travels between drill sites and does not have a full scientific party. The shore-based programs are located here at Texas A&M at the Gulf Coast Repository as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program." School of Rock will hold its next ship-based program Sept. 3-19, bound for Victoria, British Columbia. Slough, who has served as one of the program's instructional designers and evaluators since its inception in 2005, says that during the ship-based programs, teachers are able to experience life onboard a working research ship. "The previous two ship-based programs occurred during a ship transit, where no drilling was taking place. This year there will be installation of a monitoring system in an old bore hole," Slough says. "The monitoring system will allow continuous monitoring by scientists of seismic activity, fluid transport beneath the surface, slope stability and gas hydrate formation.

Thus, the teachers will get to observe the deployment of the drilling equipment." The JOIDES Resolution, operated by the IODP, sails around the world to drill for core samples of the earth's crust and sediment. It is equipped with 12 laboratories used to study the cores. These core samples enable scientists to learn more about the history of the earth. The IODP at Texas A&M University is based in the College of Geosciences. Texas A&M University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership serve as the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program U.S. Implementing Organization (IODP-USIO). "Experienced ocean drilling scientists, shipboard staff and educators sail with the teachers," Slough says. "The daily schedule follows normal ship schedules (12 hours on, 12 hours off) and includes handling real scientific ocean drilling cores and data in the floating 'lab stack' of the JOIDES Resolution."

The teachers also work on curriculum and instructional activities, as well as creating blogs and videos to share with their classes back home. "We schedule the teachers 10-12 hours a day, but in reality, we work 12-plus hours a day, but we love it," Slough says. "My only regret is that we can't replicate the experience for more teachers." Slough said he agrees that the hands-on experiences offered through the School of Rock provide the teachers with insights they can't get from traditional classroom learning. "There is a great deal of debate on the transformative power of authentic science experiences for teachers," Slough says. "I don't think there would be as much debate if critics spent time on the ship with us." For more information about the School of Rock, visit