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Sense of wonder

Workshops will share ocean opportunities with N.L. classrooms

Campus and Community

By Rebecca Cohoe

Simone Cominelli’s mother grew up on a tiny island, just off the coast of another island: Sardinia, Italy.

“Nearly every summer, she would take my brother and I back,” he recalls.

The seascapes were wild and exciting, and he remembers his sense of curiosity upon finding the remains of a giant sea turtle on the beach.

Now, the PhD student in Memorial’s Department of Geography is hoping to help encourage that same sense of wonder in young students across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Cominelli will be participating in Whale-y Wednesdays, a series of virtual classroom events developed in partnership with Memorial and Memorial’s Let’s Talk Science’s outreach site, this month.

The workshops will share hands-on activities and a chance to better understand what is happening below the surface of our oceans.

March 15 and March 22 sessions

The first session on Wednesday, March 15, at 10:30 a.m. (NST), has been developed with junior high students in mind, and will include activities about whale identification and water density.

The junior high session will also feature a group of Memorial alumni with ocean-based careers, including Ashley Noseworthy, CEO of Edgewise Environmental; Ocean Startup Challenge winners, Tien Tran and Jonathan Soper; and Mirella de Oliveira Leis, designer of the Fish Market app.

The second session, taking place on Wednesday, March 22, at 10:30 a.m. (NST), is aimed at younger kids in the primary and elementary grades and will include a focus on the opera singers of the sea: whales.

It will also include a hands-on experiment about how the health of microscopic creatures even affects the creatures at the top of the food chain.

“It’s important for kids and young people to learn about math and science now, so that in the future they’ll be prepared to explore a full range of career areas and interests,” said Heather Spicer, executive co-ordinator with Let’s Talk Science’s Memorial outreach site. “Given our location in this province, there are so many opportunities in the ocean.”

From left, Heather Spicer, of Let’s Talk Science, and her colleague, Jessica Murphy, conduct an experiment similar to the one they will lead for students this month.
Photo: Submitted

The Big Splash

The sessions are being presented as part of The Big Splash, an ongoing celebration of Memorial’s nearly endless connections to the ocean.

A blue whale skeleton is suspended in an atrium of a large building. The sun shines through the bones near the skull.
The blue whale skeleton suspended in the west atrium of Memorial’s Core Science Facility on the St. John’s campus.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Other public-facing events supported by the Big Splash have included a day of events at the Champney’s West Aquarium; a youth climate summit organized by Memorial’s Climate Collective; and a live, virtual deep-sea exploration of the ocean floor for high school students.

Along with sharing the science of the sea, Mr. Cominelli hopes that this month’s events help the students understand the richness of ocean life.

“It is right there, but we don’t get to learn about it unless someone comes and shares their excitement and knowledge,” he said. “There is a lot we can learn about our planet and how it works, including alternative approaches to life. There is more than one way to be a successful being on planet Earth.”

Teachers who are interested in registering their classes for the events can find all the details about the sessions and registration details online below.

Wednesday, March 15 (junior high session)

Wednesday, March 22 (primary/elementary session) 

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