National Geographic Partners With Afterschool Programs To Give Students Unique Scientific Experience


To kick off a partnership between the National Geographic Society and the Mott Foundation’s after-school network to provide youth with the tools and knowledge needed to become the next generation of critical thinkers, problem-solvers and responsible stewards, Baltimore students had the opportunity to engage in a captivating pure ocean exploration in an adventure led by Joe Grabowski.

Grabowski, a National Geographic Explorer and Education Fellow, live-streamed with afterschoolers in Baltimore’s LINK (Let’s Invest in Neighborhood Kids) from the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, a 64-meter ship that is one of two of its kind dedicated to pure exploration and used for scientific assessment.

The after-school students with the Village Learning Place program gathered in the PNC Bank Community Room on East 25th Street in Baltimore on October 23, 2018 for an interactive learning venture on pure ocean exploration, streamed from Davidson Seamount in Monterey Bay, 80 miles southwest of Monterey, California.

The Village Learning Place (VLP) is an independent library that houses educational programs, enrichment opportunities and informational resources for students in Baltimore. LINK, an initiative of VLP, aims to enrich the academic experience of afterschoolers through programs with an emphasis on engineering, art, computer lessons, character education and physical activities.

Grabowski was joined by Summer Farrell, an argus pilot who works as an electronics and survey technician aboard the Nautilus. Their livestream presentation consisted of showing viewers various deep-ocean species, the full composition of the Nautilus ship, a visual display of their six-month exploration journey and a detailed explanation of how Nautilus functions.

The children primarily involved in the National Geographic seminar were students from Margaret Brent Elementary-Middle School in Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore. Most of them were third-through-sixth-graders participating in an intensive STEM program.

Ellie Mitchell is director of the Maryland Out of School Time Network, was one of the coordinators who made the event possible. The Maryland Out of School Time Network, is funded by the Mott Foundation and partners directly with VLP to provide after-school students with programs sharing National Geographic’s extensive library of learning activities and experiences.

“I thought it was great. It’s a unique experience for the kids to see real scientists in action and live,” Mitchell said about the seminar. “It’s going to be something that we’re going to work on to make it more interactive and something that we’re going to give them feedback on about how it can fit better in an after-school setting.”

Similarly, VLP executive director Liesje Gantert says the livestream adventure was an enriching experience for children.

“I think that they ultimately enjoyed it,” Gantert said. “I think that getting out of the classroom setting, coming to a new place, seeing the scientists on the screen was challenging… but I think that ultimately, they’re going to say that they had a blast.”

Gantert said that the information delivered in the seminar was particularly useful and consistent with the students’ STEM curriculum.

“I think the most important thing is interacting with scientists,” she said.

“It really doesn’t matter what they [Grabowski and Farrell] were out there studying in all honesty. It’s a matter of meeting real-life scientists that are in the field doing research.”

After the livestream presentation, the students were invited to ask questions. They were very inquisitive and asked a variety of questions about the ship and staff size; shipwreck dives; the academic path Grabowski and Farrell took to become marine biologist; discoveries of new species; challenges to deep-sea exploration, technology used on the ship; and weather on the ocean.

Grabowski concluded the National Geographic event by giving instructions on how to track the exploration of Nautilus and how they can learn more about what makes being a marine biologist such a remarkable and worthwhile experience.

Other students that were part of the live stream exploration were after school students from Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.