Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lehigh University and Newark Academy

On Thursday I was able to go back out to North Rock, but this time with a new group: 3 Lehigh University students, 7 Newark Academy students, 2 chaperones, and one Ocean Academy Bermudian student.

The Lehigh University and Newark Academy students are here as part of a new collaborative program called “Lehigh in Bermuda.”  Here’s a program description from Lehigh University:

Lehigh in Bermuda is a unique, interdisciplinary program offered
to high school students (rising Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)
during the summer of 2015 by Lehigh University in conjunction with the
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) and an energy company
called Eccosolution. Dates: 6/14/2015 - 6/20/2015.
Students will travel to Bermuda and stay at BIOS where they will
receive an in depth education regarding sustainable development and
wave energy. Lehigh students, and BIOS and Eccosolution staff
members will teach the curriculum. Course topics include an
introduction to the island of Bermuda including its culture, ecology and
geology, basic forms of energy (including renewable and alternative),
integration of sustainability with public policy, environmental
economics, and special lectures in wave energy. In addition, activities
include snorkeling in the island’s coral reefs, boat trips and dives to
gather data from wave energy converters, a geological hike through
Bermuda’s unique cave system and hands on learning of the energy
conversion systems.

Learn more here:

On the 45-minute boat trip to North Rock, I made sure to speak to Mike Celente, a Newark Academy alum and current Lehigh University student.  Mike is one of the founders of the inaugural wave energy course for high schoolers.  He explained that a team of Lehigh University researchers received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to conduct research in sustainable wave energy in Bermuda.  Part of the NSF research grant was education and outreach for high school students, so Lehigh teamed with BIOS, Eccosolution, and Newark Academy to educate high school students in wave energy technology.  As part of the collaboration, 4 Lehigh university students and BIOS staff help to teach the high schoolers.  

When not teaching, Mike explained that he helps to build a wave energy converter prototype.  I could tell Mike was captivated by wave energy research by the excitement with which he spoke about the program and his research.  He told me that creating energy using waves is a relatively new technology that has not yet become widely commercialized like wind and solar, but a technology that he feels has a lot of potential for future sustainable energy.

The students were enjoying the wave energy course at BIOS just as much as Mike was enjoying teaching it. BIOS was able to sponsor one Ocean Academy student to participate in the week-long wave energy program alongside the other students.  Ocean Academy ( is a K-12 educational program aimed at bringing ocean science into the classroom, through hands-on learning experiences.  BIOS sponsored CaVon, a Sophomore at Saltus Grammar School in Bermuda, who is interested in engineering and technology. CaVon explained that he had heard about the wave energy course and was excited to be apart of it, “it’s really great.  I love it here.  I love learning about the water.”

Jasper and Charlie, two Newark Academy high school students, both agreed that the trip was “amazing.”  Charlie reflected, “I was in New York 2 days ago and now I’m here… it’s unreal… It’s cool to be out applying what we know, and start bringing change.”  Like CaVon, Jasper also has enjoyed learning about the water, “I’ve always loved the ocean but never really studied it so it’s great to be here.” 

I also spoke to Lizzy, Megan, Elina, and Sanya from Newark Academy about their experiences on the trip.  All four echoed what Jasper and Charlie said, and one commented, “it’s a really good opportunity for high school students.  Usually all the adults have the power so it’s cool to be here.”  The students emphasized how much they loved a recent presentation at BIOS, the 5 Gyres presentation.  One called it “outstanding and really inspiring.”  Read more about the 5 Gyres project and how they are determined to get plastics out of our oceans:

The students also excitedly told me about shipwreck snorkeling, viewing a model of a wave energy converter, and learning about marine animals.  The Newark Academy high schoolers explained how much they enjoyed learning in the classroom and then going out on trips to see exactly what they had been reading about in their textbooks.  Sonya explained, “it’s really cool to go from the classroom to the real world.  Sometimes you just need a hands on experience,” and some other students told me, “it’s been really fun to see all that we are learning in the lecture hall and coming out and seeing what’s actually happening.”  

The two chaperones from Newark Academy, Deb and Kristin, also seemed to be really enjoying their time at BIOS.  Deb Tavares, a science teacher who has been at Newark Academy for 23 years, told me, “I was a marine biology major so I love it (here at BIOS).”  Kristin has been at Newark Academy for 4 years, and works in the Dean of Students Office.  She came on the trip because she has a Master’s in Marine Biology and is an advisor to the student-run Marine Biology Club.  “It’s been really fun to be in the water with the kids, and imparting my wisdom and knowledge… I just love seeing it through their eyes.  Some have never been snorkeling before.”  Kristin explained that she too is learning a lot through participating in the program, “when I was in school, people were just beginning to talk about sustainability.” 

The two really could not say enough good things about the program at BIOS.  They did stress that one of the best parts of the program was the way that it inspired the students to bring back what they had learned to their home community in New Jersey.  In this way, they saw how the benefits of the program expand far beyond the 7 students who were able to attend.  It seems that the students also are aware of the potential of the program to reach other students, “when we return we plan on spreading what we learn back at school.”

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