Want to experience the ocean from the deck of a brand new cruiser? Consider going back to sixth grade.

UCSB’s Marine Science Institute outreach program, Oceans to Classrooms, introduces UCSB ocean science research into the state-standardized curriculum of the university’s partner middle school classrooms. It is one of a number of university-sponsored programs aimed at encouraging educationally under-served secondary school students to pursue higher education.

“Outreach on campus has been going on forever,” UCSB research biologist Miriam Polne-Fuller said, who helped develop the Oceans to Classrooms program.

Headed by MSI Director Steve Gaines, Oceans to Classrooms is a result of a partnership between MSI and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, whose goal is to preserve and protect the Channel Islands and the surrounding regions.

Over the years, Polne-Fuller has been one of the key players in the campaign for marine science-based outreach programs. Her smaller-scale programs, such as the Young Marine Scientists program, provided a foundation for Oceans to Classrooms.

The program received its first grant of $100,000 from the UCSB’s Chancellor’s Outreach Advisory Board in 2000, allowing initial development to take place.

“We began having teacher workshops on Saturdays, where teachers from partnership schools were invited to come to UCSB and hear UCSB marine scientists talk about their work,” said Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology graduate student Carrie McDougall, who helped develop the program.

After these workshops, Polne-Fuller and McDougall began working with the teachers to develop classroom lessons and hands-on science activities based on UCSB research projects.

Fuller, McDougall and teachers from partnership schools collaborated to develop six ready-to-use kits, which act as tools in aiding teachers to incorporate the ocean sciences and UCSB research projects into their normal curricula. Each kit covers a different topic: light, oceans, living cells, habitats, underwater glues and tides. Within each kit are lesson plans, tools and technology needed to provide classroom examples and experiments, and suggested field trips.

Some of these field trips take middle school classes to the MSI at UCSB, during which researchers explain to students what they are studying.

“[The researchers] are sharing their scientific questions with them,” Polne-Fuller said. “[They are] explaining their daily activity.”

In 2002 Oceans to Classrooms received its most recent grant of $100,000 from the Chancellor’s Outreach Advisory Board. The money from this grant is being used to launch the Floating Lab, a new Oceans to Classrooms program that will incorporate a half-day cruise to the Channel Islands into some of the kits’ curriculums.

The Condor Express cruiser, owned by Fred Benko, will host the ocean excursions and students will be able to apply what they have learned in the program to a real ocean setting. Forty thousand dollars of the grant money will go toward equipping the vessel with specialized technology to aid in teaching the students on the cruise. The remaining $60,000 will be used to continue funding the program’s in-class activities.

Although Oceans to Classrooms has benefited from Chancellor’s Outreach Advisory Board grants, the program is still searching for more funding, Gaines said.

“We’re doing a lot of active fund raising to expand this program,” he said.

Gaines’ goal is for Oceans to Classrooms to include grades K-12, instead of just middle school grades. He also hopes to expand the number of partnership schools.

In order to accommodate the growing number of students that Oceans to Classrooms hopes to teach in the future, the new MSI Building, which Gaines hopes will be completed by Jan. 2004, will host an entire wing dedicated to Oceans to Classrooms. This new education center will have natural habitat areas with tide pools and a freshwater stream “to show the connections between what happens on land and the ocean,” Gaines said.

The center will also contain classrooms, a 110-seat auditorium and a digital theater that will be directly linked to field projects going on around the world.

This new center will make it easier for UCSB faculty, teachers and students to implement the Oceans to Classrooms program, Gaines said.

“Part of the reason why we’re not getting research into education is because they’re done in separate places,” he said. “So the whole idea was [to] stick an education outreach center right in the middle of the research building, so that it makes it really easy for faculty and graduate students to … work in an education outreach program in the middle of the afternoon.”

Information about Oceans to Classrooms and getting involved is available via e-mail at <outreach@msi.ucsb.edu> .