- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 1, 2005

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service (NOS) works to preserve and enhance the United States’ resources along 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.5 million square miles of coastal ocean.

Besides measuring and predicting ocean phenomena, researching climate change and exploring technologies to ensure safe marine transportation, the organization offers an outreach program to keep the public apprised of its many endeavors. One of its efforts leads children to an educational cyber-zone to learn about ocean science and the wonders of this ever-changing world.

NOS Education Discovery Center

Site address: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/

Creator: The Communication and Education Division of NOS, located at NOS headquarters in Silver Spring, put together the site and maintains it.

Creator quotable: “The NOS Education Discovery Center was created to enlighten students and educators about the breadth of scientific research, technology and activities carried out by NOS,” says Bruce Moravchik, communications specialist at the Communication and Education Division.

“We like to think of the products in the NOS Education Discovery Center as a science-education Swiss Army knife. It’s not the perfect tool for every job, but every backpacker has one, and it does a little bit of everything. We hope that the resources in the NOS Education Discovery Center will help guide educators and students in their quest to learn more about the coastal and ocean realms.”

Word from the Webwise: The Web site combines interactive tutorials, case studies and lesson plans to give the middle to high school crowd a targeted education on some of the many facets of the terrain beneath the waves.

The latest and most impressive addition to the site offers a multimedia module on the menacing lionfish and its invasion into the western Atlantic Ocean, and, specifically, the Florida coast.

As the opening page to the module loads, a 60-second video clip introduces the beautiful but deadly predator, which boasts venomous spines and loves to hang out in warm waters among coral reefs.

Through a seven-step menu, visitors explore text-based pages peppered with images and resources encompassing the biology of the species, its invasion of U.S. coastal waters, the role of the aquarium trade in the invasion and whether the invasion can be curbed.

Multimedia moments include a video clip from a team of scientists that unexpectedly runs into a lionfish while exploring the ocean floor aboard a submersible, a multiple-choice quiz, maps of the invasion’s progress and plenty of color photographs of the 6- to 12-inch-long hunter.

Other areas of the site worth submerging into range from a look at geodesy (the science of measuring and monitoring the size and shape of the Earth) to a meticulous investigation of tides.

Ease of use: The NOS Education Discovery Center is best viewed in Netscape, version 6.0 and above, or Internet Explorer, version 5.0 and above. In addition, the site’s use of multimedia features requires the QuickTime, Windows Media Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Macromedia Flash Player plug-ins.

Don’t miss: The most beautiful images on the site can be found within the Corals Discovery Kit, which examines the diverse ecosystem, how and where it grows and the importance of preserving and protecting it. Amid the dozen pages devoted to the polyp organisms, visitors will find colorful photographs of reefs containing varieties of coral along with animation on the formation of coral and even a video on its reproductive cycle.

Family activity: The Classroom portion of the site features nine downloadable lesson plans geared toward high school students. Each is a multiple-page PDF and clearly explains ways for educators to teach students about the life sciences through exercises on national marine sanctuaries, coral reef conservation, natural resource restoration, coastal management and harmful algal blooms.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: The lionfish area will take about an hour to look through, and eager students will want comparable modules to enjoy. Unfortunately, they will have to wait until later in 2005 for Discovery Kits on estuaries and marine archaeology to be added. Also in the works are Discovery Stories on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the sinking of coastal areas in Louisiana.

Once the site loads more content, it will become a very authoritative and rich place for the curious junior marine biologist in the family.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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