ASMSA hosts first Oceanography and Aquatic Research Symposium

8 years ago

The following article was published in the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record on Nov. 18.

By Jenn Ballard
Staff Writer

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts hosted its first ocean celebration Wednesday with theatrical performances, multimedia presentations, and three professionals from ocean-related fields.

“I want to bring the ocean to many kids who have never even seen it,” said Janice Sullivan, dean of academic affairs.

Sullivan said the students have been preparing for the presentations and performances for a couple of weeks.

“Some of them are related to research and some are performances. We gave the kids the freedom to explore what they wanted to explore,” Sullivan said, and were broken into five categories: arts and literature; history and social studies; environmental science; life science; and engineering.

“I talked to the teachers, and they thought it was a great idea ... our faculty is the best faculty because they were engaging the kids right away ... the school has been working as a team and has been incredible,” she said, adding that the teachers promoted the celebration in their classrooms.

The students were also excited to begin working on their projects, Sullivan said.

“We had the signup (for the projects) at 2 p.m., and they were in line since (noon) because they wanted to be the first to choose their topic,” Sullivan said. Each group had about 10 students.

She said that, after spending time working on their projects, “many kids showed interest in oceanography and marine biology.”

“We just want to help them. We’re like a bridge. We want to facilitate them,” she said. The event is an opportunity to “celebrate the oceans.”

Sullivan highlighted the celebration’s relevance because of the Gulf oil spill.

“The whole country is suffering the consequences of the oil spill, and this promotes the value of the ocean,” she said. “It’s a great celebration of life.”

Sullivan’s personal investment in the celebration comes from her time spent in the U.S. Navy and her research on whales in Columbia, which she called an “incredible experience.”

“I love the ocean, and I want to raise awareness that everything that happens in the ocean effects our lives,” Sullivan said. Some of the presentations addressed pollution and the importance of “going green.”

Devika Mehta, 18, was in a group that presented about the generation and persistence of plastic pollution in the ocean. Mehta’s group created a diorama of part of the north Pacific Ocean filled with plastic bottles, bags and other items, stating “it’s one of the most-polluted oceans on the Earth.”

Jon Ruehle, biology instructor at the school, said “those kids worked hard on that.”

One of the performances included a student-written script of “Moby Dick,” said Ernestine Ross, a speech instructor at the school. Ross said “they selected this piece because this is one of the most well-renowned ocean related novels of all time.”

Ross said the student’s rendition allowed them to use not only their speech talents, but their literacy and artistic talents, as well.

The presentations and performances were put on simultaneously on the campus in various classrooms and each lasted 20 to 30 minutes, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said John Delaney, a professor of oceanography who spoke at the forum, is “a great speaker. He’s a great opportunity for our program to have today.”

Robert McElderry and Meredith Mitchell also spoke at the forum.

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