While many CSEG members were putting around in Banff at this past year's Doodlebug, Bill Batycky was getting some first hand experience on what life with hurricanes was all about.
Batycky, curriculum specialist for the Calgary Board of Education, was one of the two Calgary teachers sponsored by the CSEG Superfund to attend the science teachers session in New Orleans this past September 11 - 13, 1998. The Louisiana Science Teachers Association and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists jointly developed this professional development session. Brendan Bulger, a science department head and physics teacher at Father Lacombe High School represented the Calgary Catholic Board of Education.
Of the duo, it was Batycky who arrived a day earlier to attend a school visit organized by Andrea Walker, science coordinator at McDonough 35, an inner city New Orleans high school. It was this time that Hurricane Frances was just passing through New Orleans with torrential rains and winds that had umbrellas flipping backwards. Batycky witnessed people wading across intersections waist deep in water. While sand bags formed a dyke in front of the steps of the Hampton Inn where Batycky stayed, the cab driver drove across the sidewalk to pick him up and drop him off. Visibility was so poor that they almost couldn't the find school, which was declared an emergency shelter.
Batycky sat in on the labs and lectures, attended teacher planning sessions, reviewed curriculum and available resources, spoke with students and staff and moved freely about. McDonough 35 is an exceptional New Orleans school in the fact that within three years, it had risen from a school noted for inner city disparity to a school that had become one of the top achieving schools in Louisiana state exams. Students were very proud that all their teachers were "certificated", meaning they had been trained to teach in a particular specialty and had achieved a certain level of competence - unlike in Alberta, where elementary teachers, are expected to teach everything. "These kids were top fliers. They were polite," says Batycky. "The kids wore uniforms. One kid said to me why would they spend a lot of money on clothes, when you just wear them out."
By the time Bulger had arrived in New Orleans, the hurricane had fled and New Orleans returned back to normal. Batycky, who lived off vending food machine for a day because of the deluge of cruise ship tourists at the hotel's restaurant did eventually get his fill of hot Creole cuisine.
Since Batycky and Bulger both have last names that start with the second letter of the alphabet, they ended up attending the remaining five professional development sessions together. These seminars dealt with the following topics: earth sciences, the use of internet for science, seismic operations technologies, geophysics and geology career opportunities with emphasis on girls in science-related careers, and advanced technologies as being applied to oil exploration. There were another 150 teachers, mainly from Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, who also attended.
"The conference was well organized. Activities for the teachers were well laid out and practical," says Bulger. "I consider this to be the best conference I've gone to so far. I found the applications were a very important component of science technology and society. When you're teaching, a key thing is to try and relate the information the kids have heard and apply it to their future."
The earth science seminar provided both teachers with ideas on creating learning packages. They examined the project "Rocks in Your Head", a teaching package to help students become better informed on such topics , such as, characteristics of the earth's internal structures, the hunt for fossil fuels, conservation, formation of fossil fuels, plate tectonics, erosion cycles, drilling technologies and so forth . "You stepped into this package as if you were a geologist or geophysicist," recalls Batycky,
They also learned how valuable the internet is, as a class room tool for information gathering and learning. The technology applications in seismic data collection were really exciting, " Proof that hands-on science that is based in reality is engaging," says Batycky.
Career opportunities in geophysics and geology gave an in-depth look at what knowledge, skills and training are necessary for students wishing to pursue such career opportunities. Batycky, a father of two daughters was particularly intrigued with the session on women in science-related careers. A female professional from Chevron spoke on females working as geologists and geophysicists and the challenges that they face in a male-dominated work environment. Batycky concluded that there are viable options for female earth sciences professionals.
The personal experiences shared by working earth science professionals are also invaluable for providing anecdotal material for classroom presentations says Bulger. "One geophysicist went through the steps of the oil exploration process the justification of whether you continue pumping oil out of a field or shut it down, and how different communication skills are required when you're dealing with different people."
Both Batycky and Bulger will be incorporating what they learned in New Orleans into the Calgary classroom. The knowledge they garnered will also assist them with the development of the Oil Game and in setting up a similar kind of education initiative for the SEG 2000 Calgary convention. There's no doubt in their minds that such initiatives are essential for keeping science up front and center on students' minds.
Bulger says, " Kids are not as focused on their careers as they were five years ago. A lot of kids are focused on getting by. A lot of these kids are working part-time, some are working 40 hours a week in their parents' restaurants. I always try to relate concepts, science to applications to job opportunities. That gives them some thing to focus on, you've got to show that there's more to life than flipping burgers."