IM this article to a friend!

January 3, 2003

Argonauts head to Channel Islands

From: Naragansett Times, RI - 03 Jan 2003


NARRAGANSETT - In the spirit of legendary Greek hero Jason, known for recovering a fleece of gold with his band of argonauts, students and teachers from around the country will venture to the Channel Islands off the coast of California on a week-long quest to study the coastline and other marine habitats this month.
The expedition, called JASON XIV: From Shore to Sea after the heroic figure, is part of a year-long program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade designed to encourage hands-on learning through the mediums of science, math and technology.
R.M.S. Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert D. Ballard founded the project after establishing The JASON Foundation for Educa-tion in 1989. The nonprofit foundation has 40 sites around the country, including a base at the University of Rhode Island's office of marine programs where Ballard is a faculty member.
"We're excited for this year's expedition," said Maryann School, the state's JASON proj-ect coordinator.
This year the project wel-comes participation from two Rhode Islanders and both are firsts for the program. John Langella, a science teacher at East Providence High School, is the first teacher from the state to take part while Rai Doblmeier, a freshman at Toll Gate High School in Warwick, is the first hearing-impaired student to be selected by the foundation.
According to Scholl and Lan-gella, the application process is a rigorous one with participants chosen from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants from around the world. To pare down the ap-plicant pool, each foundation site is allowed to select about three candidates and additional selections are made from that group, Scholl explained. Teach-ers are chosen first and then help select students by sifting through their 20-page applica-tions and conducting interviews.
"I was getting up at 3 a.m. to make phone calls to Japan," Langella said, adding that teach-ers must weigh a student's strengths and how much they would benefit from participat-ing. "They are chosen for many different reasons."
Langella, a certified scuba diver since the age of 14, teaches biology. He also estab-lished an oceanology program for students that combines biol-ogy, ecology and technology. He and another teacher will be sta-tioned on an island and lead seven students on underwater segments during the expedition. The team will explore kelp for-ests, calculate chlorophyll levels and build model airplanes to survey the ocean from above.
Doblmeier will be stationed on the coast in Santa Barbara for on land studies of coastal ecosys-tems. Like the students on the island, Doblmeier will have the opportunity to build a model airplane and have access to four interpreters who will help him communicate with scientists and participants.
"[Doblmeier] is a very intelli-gent young man," Scholl said, adding that he is not only tal-ented in the classroom, but also a very skilled bowler.
Preparation for the scientific adventure involves some train-ing for students and teachers. Reading books, conducting ex-periments and conversing online with participants are some of the ways they get ready, Scholl said. A teacher conference earlier this spring was an opportunity for Langella to meet other partici-pants and prepare a curriculum.
"I'm impressed by the caliber of the teachers and scientists," he said. "The upbeat enthusiasm of the students is also impres-sive."
What makes the learning expe-rience doubly unique for partici-pants is a series of live broadcasts where the work of teachers and students will be televised for public viewing. Scholl explained that schools anywhere in the world can fol-low along with the expedition and teachers can incorporate the project in their classrooms.
The experience, in addition to the opportunity to work with re-nowned scientists, will help stu-dents accelerate their studies.
"It will really make a differ-ence in their lives," Langella said.
If you wish to attend a live JASON Project broadcast at URI's Narragansett Bay Cam-pus, call Penny at 401-874-6211 to reserve seats. The broadcasts will take place January 27 through 31 and February 3 through 7, five times daily, with shows starting at 9:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.
The cost of admission is $1 per person.
For more information on viewing the broadcasts on cable, via the internet, or for schools who want to participate in video-conferencing, call URI's office of marine programs at 874-6211 or visit

©The Narragansett Times 2003