Since I've been aboard Nautilus I've met some wonderful people, who have made me feel so welcome. So, when a group of Argonauts from The JASON Project (www.jason.org) came aboard in Paphos, Cyprus, I wanted to make sure they felt the same way. Our latest Argonaut visitors are the second group to join us on the 2012 expedition, and the group included four Student Argonauts, two Argonaut Teachers and the Director of The Jason Project. They spent only two days with us, but they got in a lifetime of inspiration and insight into what an exploration vessel does.
First, let me give some background on The JASON Project. Dr. Robert Ballard created this educational non-profit in 1989 in hopes of inspiring more young people to go into science related fields. It has grown into an unparalleled resource for teachers and students, and the curriculum includes a wide array of hands-on activities where students can apply science, engineering and critical thinking skills to activities. Dr. Ballard's reason for naming the group “JASON” is the ancient myth about the sea-explorer, Jason, who found the “Golden Fleece” while exploring aboard a ship named the Argo. His crew were called Argonauts. Dr. Ballard is a modern day Jason, and the Golden Fleece is the knowledge we get from the expeditions he has taken and the curriculum the students learn. When this was explained to me, it sent a tingle down my spine, as the analogy was truly perfect. (Dr. Ballard often uses mythical heroes in naming various aspects of his expeditions.)
Now, for a bit more about our Student Argonauts! Freddy is one of our two younger Argonauts, as he is entering 9th grade this year near Houston, TX. He is very interested in science, and was excited when the group was learning navigation with our Navigator, Roderick.
Allie is the other freshman, and she is also from Houston. She said she enjoyed not only the navigation training, but also the experience of seeing what ship life is like. Allie was able to join me one night during my live broadcast to the Mystic Aquarium and did a great job!
Roshan is a rising sophomore that came to us from a suburb of Detroit. He was very engaged in all areas of the expedition we showed him, but mentioned that he liked driving the ship best.
And lastly, our oldest Student Argonaut is Tiberiu, who hails from Romania, and will be in 11th grade this year. He had been chosen to be on last year's expedition, but a change of plans caused him to wait until this year. He definitely wants to pursue a science career, but hasn’t decided exactly which field suits him. When I asked him how he found out about the program, he simply responded that he'd seen the link on the National Geographic website and pursued it. Good for you, Tiberiu!!
Our Teacher Argonauts included Dennis Durkin, a special needs science teacher now practicing art in Massachusetts. He has a long background with special needs students, and recently got his certification to teach biology. I know this experience will help him spread the excitement for science to his students!
Sheena Guevara teaches 6th grade science at Northbrook Middle School in the Houston, TX area. The JASON Project is something her school system embraces, and she was here to see the Nautilus Corps of Exploration in action as an inspiration to her own students.
The leader of this group was Dr. Eleanor Smalley, the Executive VP and COO of the JASON Project, which is headquartered in Loudoun County, VA. She and I had some wonderful conversations about training teachers in the JASON curriculum, and some plans for the future of JASON. I personally look forward to being in touch with her more after I return to school in Fairfax, VA next week. I think I'd love to return to Nautilus as a Teacher Argonaut!
If you know someone who would be interested in becoming an Argonaut, please direct them to www.jason.org, where the information about this program is posted in the late winter or early spring of each year.