Inspiring the next generation of Oceanographers during the Great American Teach-In

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Research Graduate Assistant Legna Torres-Garcia participated in the Great American Teach-In on Wednesday, November 13. She attended Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Elementary Center for Mathematics and Engineering to talk with 3rd and 5th grade students about being an oceanographer.

Photo of a woman standing in front of a class of children with an image projected on the whiteboard behind her

Research graduate assistant Legna Torres-Garcia inspires the next generation of oceanographers during the Great American Teach-In. (Public domain.)

She discussed the field work that is conducted by USGS in various places and ecosystems, as well as how USGS combines data from fieldwork, computers, and multiple disciplines such as biology, geology, and physics to better answer scientific questions. Legna then led a fun, hands-on activity to teach the students about optics. The demonstration involved submerging a glass test tube into a "magic liquid" (vegetable oil). As the tube filled with oil, the test tube “vanished!” Both the test tube and the oil have similar indices of refraction, which creates the illusion of the test tube disappearing. The demonstration taught students that as light travels through different mediums such as air, water, or other liquids, it changes direction and speed. This change, called refraction, can provide scientists with information about the physical characteristics of a body of water. This relates to research at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, where instruments are used to measure these characteristics. These examples include turbidity sensors, which measure the amount of light that passes through a column of water; and optical probes that measure absorption and fluorescence (amount of re-emitted light) of a water sample. The kids were absolutely fascinated by the activity!

The Great American Teach-In is an annual, nationwide event during which guests from various trades and expertise visit classrooms to challenge students to begin thinking about future career paths. Several scientists at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center have participated in this event in previous years to inspire future generations to explore careers in coastal and marine science.