Visiting NOAA: Where getting political is a matter of science - Mid-Pacific Institute

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Visiting NOAA: Where getting political is a matter of science

Posted on February 17, 2016 by Scot Allen

On January 29th, fifty International Baccalaureate (IB) juniors in Global Politics visited NOAA's headquarters at Ford island. The class was currently studying a unit on how governmental regulations affect oceans and climate change. "As we say in political science, the personal is political, and the political is personal," says Dr. Suzanne Acord, who teaches the yearlong course. "What we came to understand is that the environment is both personal and political."

Topics in the oceans' unit meld together political science and scientific research including human trafficking, piracy, commercial shipping, marine pollution, overfishing, and nuclear testing on island nations to name a few. "As a result of the student's research on immigration and climate change, we realized we had created another category of climate change refugees," says Dr. Acord. Armed with questions from their research, students visited NOAA to learn how the United States government and scientists are responding to some of these issues.

Students spoke with NOAA scientists and ship crewmembers to learn how science is carried out at sea. They toured a research vessel and got hands on experience with the vessel's equipment, including a remotely operated Vehicle (ROV). A highlight was meeting Chris Lindsey who is a junior at 'Iolani and an intern with NOAA. "The most meaningful thing that I took away from this trip to the NOAA building in Ford Island is actually the idea that I could do something meaningful with the help of advisors and bring an idea I have to fruition," writes Tyler Sakima '17. "Chris Lindsay was really inspiring and now I know that there are simple ways to provide tech or information to NOAA. I may also design something similar with a different camera to use at Hanauma Bay."

Dr. Acord's interest in NOAA began in 2014 when she was selected for their competitive Teacher at Sea program which allows teachers to serve as researchers on active research vessels and get their hands wet with authentic research. "When I was at sea I learned of the impact that humans are having on our oceans," Dr. Acord explains. "I realized on that trip that I had to integrate science with social studies. IB Global politics is the prefect fit. "While other schools in Hawaii offer IB, Mid-Pacific is the only school to offer Global Politics, a new interdisciplinary class introduced in the fall of 2015. "It's really unique as a course because one of the assessments is political engagement," says Dr. Acord.

After the NOAA field trip and broad complimentary research, students honed in on a narrow topic of research. They became experts on one specific issue, contacted a local government official, proposed a solution, and encourage that official to take action.

"The government has the power to influence, enforce, and approve of laws and regulations that can potentially impact the environment in either a positive or negative way," writes Tiffany Kanoa '16. Dr. Acord's students learned, as a result of the NOAA field trip, they have influence to protect and study the world's oceans too.

By Laura Davis