Friday, October 10, 2014

Testing the Water

This autumn our friend Michael called us to see if we or any other home learners would like to come out and help him test the local sea water for radiation. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity has people out test our ocean all over the coast of North America, and some further west, as well.

So Michael Chapman, a friend with a lifetime of connection to our local waters, took us out on his boat with his wonderful partner Sue, and showed us not only how to sample the water, but also how to read the charts, locate ourselves by sight-lines, and record the data for the sample.

Sampling is the easy part. We chose our spot on the ocean, scooped buckets of water from beside the boat, and funneled them into the provided container. The container came with a small device inside that will keep a record of the water's temperature and salinity from retrieval time until it arrives at the CMER. Not much to look at, but we found it interesting!

Then we plotted ourselves on the map using sight-lines, and recorded wind direction and other such things for the documentation that must accompany the sample to CMER. Upon arrival back at the dock, we packed up the sample in the CMER-provided crate and shipped it off for analysis. You can see a map of test results, here: Results

Participating in scientific research, especially in our own community, is one of the most rewarding things we do, as unschoolers. It allows us not only to learn about various workings of the world, but to be directly involved with our home and the things we care about. It allows us to understand and to care about more. I think there is an unfortunate disconnect between our increasingly urbanized culture and the environment we live in. The environment is not only our home, but it is a part of us, and we are a part of it. Unschooling has allowed us to delve deeply into that connection and to live not just in but as a part of the world we are.

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