- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Students at Shepherd Elementary School in Northwest accompanied marine scientists on a virtual, month-long expedition to the Pacific Ocean's greatest depths, where they discovered exotic organisms, like the Pompeii worm, which can thrive in temperatures up to 176 degrees Farenheit.
Yesterday via satellite, Shepherd sixth-graders got the chance to ask scientists aboard the 274-foot research vessel Atlantis and the submersible ALVIN off the coast of Costa Rica conditions at the bottom of the sea.
"Have there been any new organisms discovered recently near the hydrothermal vents [underwater geysers]?" asked Chelsey Pearson, 11, her class' designated speaker.
"Yes, every time we sample we find new organisms," said scientist Jen Costanza of the University of Delaware. "Finding new multicellular organisms is rare but, it does happen."
The students also had a quirky question about living conditions aboard the Atlantis.
"Why does the captain have such a large room and the scientists berths are so small?
Marine scientist Craig Carey chuckled and said, "The captain's room is the largest because he is the boss. He is responsible for the ship's operation because of that, he's has the largest room. He's been captain of the this ship for six or seven years."
Shepherd students were among 500 schools nationwide who participated in "Mission to the Abyss," an educational program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant and the University of Delaware Graduate School of Marine Studies.
Shepherd Elementary was one of 48 schools selected to talk with scientists directly.
Mr. King, 38, said his class followed the scientists daily for four weeks on the Internet while they explored the ocean floor. Students were responsible for documenting the scientists activities and they were well prepared for the scientific discussion.
"Students have been using the Web site and they created journals it was really more of a research project for them. They wrote and also sketched pictures. They had to follow steps on the website that dealt with areas of the ocean," Mr. King said.
The journals helped him to determine whether the students were grasping the subject matter as it pertained to underwater life forms and and the composition of the Earth, he said.
"The big thing I hope some of them get turned on and become scientists," he said.
Mr. King said he wants to expose his students to different methods of researching. He wants them to use all of the research resources that are available to them such as books, magazines, brochures and of course, the Internet but he does not want them to depend solely on the computer.
Sidney Addo, 11, said he has learned much about different organisms and how they survive, noting some dangers.
"I really like how the hydrothermal vents convert chemicals into food for the living organisms. For example, take the tubeworm it has no mouth, eyes or stomach the bacteria [from the hydrothermal vents] feed it," Sidney said.
"But exploring the vents can be dangerous to humans because of the toxic chemicals from the vents," he said.

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