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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teacher on deep-sea adventure


By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Student Tori Borengasser, 17, and teacher Buffy Cushman-Patz look at the Web site that Cushman-Patz will use during her trip to Galapagos.

Photos by RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Cushman-Patz holds a shrunken foam cup as students, from left, Bianca Batten, 14; Brittany Ulmer, 16; Cynthia Okuno, 17; Maryna Feldberg, 15; and Mari Cobb, 15, personalize souvenir cups that will be brought back from a deep-sea ride.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Teacher at Sea

Buffy Cushman-Patz is blogging from her deep-sea and marine expedition to the Galapagos for The Advertiser. Her blog kicks off today.

Stay tuned for exclusive updates, photos and video from her adventure. You can send questions and comments to: gruveeteacheratsea@gmail.com.

Follow her blog at WWW.TEACHERATSEA.HONADVBLOGS.COM.

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LEARN MORE

Get updates on the Galapagos expedition, including photos of life aboard the ship and interviews with scientists, along with lessons for students and teachers, at www.soest.hawaii.edu/gruvee/tas.

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Honolulu science teacher Buffy Cushman-Patz is gearing up for a sea adventure off the Galapagos Islands that includes deep-ocean dives inside the Alvin, a submersible famous for its exploration of the Titanic in 1986.

And she wants everyone you included to join her for the ride.

"While I'm on board, my entire job is to be this liaison" for schools and the public, said Cushman-Patz, a math and science teacher at La Pietra Hawai'i School for Girls.

Cushman-Patz, a geologist, will be among a group of more than 30 scientists participating in a research cruise aboard the ship Atlantis in the Galapagos Ridge Undersea Volcanic Eruptions Expedition, or GRUVEE, Monday through April 14.

The teacher was invited to participate by University of Hawai'i professor John Sinton, the principal investigator overseeing the project.

"We will be studying volcanic eruptions on the sea floor along a mid-ocean ridge where new sea floor is being created close to the Galapagos Islands," explained Sinton, who's with UH-Mānoa's Department of Geology and Geophysics.

As the designated "teacher at sea," Cushman-Patz's main role will be to serve as a bridge between the scientists and general public, communicating the team's daily activities and findings. Her qualifications include being both a scientist and educator, and already being familiar with the Galapagos region, having completed a UH master's thesis on the area a few years ago, Sinton said.

"But most important, I knew she would bring a sense of enthusiasm and excitement of what we are trying to accomplish to school-age students," Sinton said.

Cushman-Patz is passionate about involving students every step of the way.

Leading up to the trip, she worked with La Pietra students to create the Web site she'll be using to share her information and images.

Students also decorated plastic foam cups that the teacher will put in a mesh bag and attach to the outside of the Alvin. Pressure from the ocean depths will shrink the cups to "thimble-sized things," Cushman-Patz said. "It's totally fun. I'll bring those back to my students as souvenirs."

During the research cruise, she'll create daily problems and weekly projects based on data collected, geared toward middle and high school math and science students at La Pietra and abroad, and accessible to all students and teachers on the GRUVEE Web site.

Cushman-Patz said she is a strong a believer of teaching outside a traditional classroom setting.

"It's so much my philosophy that I don't even know how to talk about 'traditional' teaching, because it doesn't work," she said. "Nobody learns by someone standing in front of a classroom and just telling you stuff."

La Pietra's staff and students are thrilled about Cushman-Patz's upcoming trip.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to make learning relevant for students, with its focus on real world uses of science, math and technology," said Mahina Hugo, head of school at La Pietra.

Tori Borengasser, a La Pietra junior, was among three students who helped Cushman-Patz develop the Web site.

"I've always been interested in science, so to have her be granted such a great opportunity and then to be able to ... share it with us and make it like we're almost there with her is really great," Borengasser said.

Cushman-Patz is enthusiastic about the actual cruise, but it isn't what she's looking forward to most.

"The thing I'm most excited about is sharing this experience with my students," Cushman-Patz said.

La Pietra student Mari Cobb, 15, decorates a plastic foam cup that will be used to demonstrate deep-sea pressure.

La Pietra student Mari Cobb, 15, decorates a plastic foam cup that will be used to demonstrate deep-sea pressure.

Students' souvenir plastic foam cups will ride outside the Alvin submersible and shrink dramatically, like the cup on the right, as the sub encounters water pressure.

Students' souvenir plastic foam cups will ride outside the Alvin submersible and shrink dramatically, like the cup on the right, as the sub encounters water pressure.

Reach Zenaida Serrano at 535-8174. Follow her Twitter updates at www.twitter.com/zenaidaserrano.