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USGS Intern Teaches Kids about Ocean Acidification

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U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Pathways Program intern Paul O. Knorr taught kids about ocean acidification in his third annual Great American Teach-In at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo, Florida, on November 21, 2013. The Great American Teach-In is a day on which professionals from a wide range of careers visit schools and teach children real-world applications of what adults do.

Paul Knorr presents material on ocean acidification and geology to third-graders during the Great American Teach-In
Above: University of South Florida Ph.D. candidate and USGS Pathways Program intern Paul Knorr presents material on ocean acidification and geology to third-graders during the Great American Teach-In. [larger version]

Knorr does research on ocean acidification alongside research oceanographer Lisa Robbins at the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Ocean acidification occurs as excess atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH of seawater and making it harder for organisms such as corals and shellfish to produce their calcium carbonate shells. A Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Florida (USF), Knorr studies benthic foraminifera, single-celled animals that form calcium carbonate shells and are prolific sediment producers in Florida. He focuses on how ocean acidification at different CO2 levels in the ocean will affect foraminifera shell formation and how that will influence sediment production.

For the Great American Teach-In, Knorr taught a total of four classes of first-, second-, and third-graders about ocean acidification, geology, and carbonate sediment. These topics may sound a little complex for children, but the presentations were customized for each grade level. Additionally, Ridgecrest is “a gifted magnet school” and, according to Knorr, “the third-graders seemed to absorb the information as if they were sixth- or seventh-graders.”

Third-graders participate in a hands-on experiment led by Paul Knorr during the Great American Teach-In
Above: Third-graders participate in a hands-on experiment led by Paul Knorr during the Great American Teach-In. [larger version]

Knorr brought hands-on activities and samples for the students. The first-graders played with rocks and handled several geological tools, such as a compass, a rock hammer, and a hand lens. “The first-graders really liked the tools,” said Knorr.

The second- and third-graders were able to individually conduct experiments to learn about the chemical reactions that occur as part of ocean acidification. Knorr said, “The students were especially interested in the acid-base reaction, where solid baking soda reacts with liquid vinegar and inflates a balloon to show the release of gaseous CO2.”

For more information about USGS research on ocean acidification, visit http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/ocean-acidification/.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Great-American Teach-In Brings Scientists to Schools
Dec. 2004 / Jan. 2005
USGS Participates in Great American Teach-In
Dec. 2002 / Jan. 2003

Related Websites
Ocean Acidification

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in this issue:

cover story:
Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Pacific Atolls

Spotlight on Sandy
Fire Island Oceanographic Study Update

Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability at Assateague Island

Recent Hires Assist USGS Barrier Island and Estuarine Studies

EDEN and EVE—Getting the Water Right in Paradise

"Marathon" Bird May Plan Flights Based on Weather Across the Pacific

Warmer Conditions Create New Goose Habitat in Arctic Alaska

25 Years After the Exxon Valdez, Sea Otter Populations at Pre-Spill Levels

USGS Intern Teaches Kids about Ocean Acidification

USGS Scientists Support the National Ocean Science Bowl’s Spoonbill Bowl

Communications Awards Recognize Ocean Chemistry Topics

Three USGS Volunteers in Florida Working on Ocean Acidification

USGS Employee in Florida Recognized for Service on Science Museum Board

Publications New Kid on the Web: USGS CMGP Redesigned Website Goes Live

March / April Publications

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

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