Mission & Project Info | NOAA’s Aquarius Undersea Laboratory
Aquanaut Profiles

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mission & project info : aquanaut profiles
Steve Houwen
Alternate Teacher

I have been interested in the oceans since I was a young child growing up in New Jersey. I lived about an hour from the Atlantic Ocean and took many opportunities to visit my Aunt’s house across the street from the bay and two blocks from the ocean to swim and snorkel as often as I could. I was amazed and intrigued by the things I saw and the sensations I experienced while swimming and snorkeling. It was there I developed a love for the oceans and the life in them. Fast forward to the time I began teaching Marine Biology as a High School teacher in Colorado and I developed a program that would allow my students to experience some of these same things and more. Most of my students have never seen an ocean, much less been able to experience the things under it. I wanted to open up underwater horizons that they never thought possible. I wanted these students to understand how important these resources are to our continued life here. I wanted them to understand the impact of their decisions Colorado, where our care of mountain water resources impacts two oceans.

Out of those desires was born a Marine Expedition Program in which students from land-locked Denver, Colorado have the opportunity to not only become certified scuba divers and travel to the coasts to explore under the sea, but they also develop and implement their own small research projects such as water quality labs and fish counts. Our students have traveled from the Florida Keys to coastal California to the Hawaiian Islands and explored the unique Marine ecosystems present. Several students, inspired to continue their Marine education, have gone on to colleges to continue their studies. A tour of the National Undersea Research Center’s Home shore base in 2007 encouraged one student to pursue an engineering degree that they want to use to help design and develop undersea research equipment. This has been a successful program that combines classroom learning with real world field experiences, continued vicariously here through electronic media connected back to Denver via the airwaves, technology allowing for something that could only be dreamed of as I was diving those New Jersey shores.

I am entering my 27th year of teaching, my primary goals being to educate, develop and inspire my students. I believe in creating an educational environment in which the students co-create their experiences and develop investigational processes and procedures. I believe that in this electronic informational age ‘real time’ information makes a great impact on student learning. The Teacher Under the Sea program will allow me to do more of that for the students through live feeds and journal blogs. I want my students to think rather than get a grade, to investigate what I call the “How do you knows” of their learning – not just the end answer, but the why’s of the answer and the future impacts of those answers and decisions based on them. My being a part of the Teacher Under the Sea program, will allow these students and, electronically, myriads of others, to see the real world of ocean research, and that an “ordinary person”, could aspire to doing such things no matter where they currently reside, and that it is important to do so.

Mission Date: November, 2008
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Steve Houwen