Construction to Begin on MSI Teaching Facility
By Gail Gallessich
Students from Santa Barbara County and all over the state will soon have access to a unique, high-tech, hands-on teaching facility for marine science at UCSB.
Ground will be broken in August for the new Ocean Science Education Building, which will house the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science (OCTOS) and incorporate the educational outreach programs of the Marine Science Institute (MSI) and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS). Half of the building will house OCTOS and include state-of-the-art interactive exhibits in marine science, and half will be home to the CINMS administrative offices.
“OCTOS will open a unique window on the sea,” said Steve Gaines, director of MSI, who is currently on sabbatical in New Zealand. “Most people only see the ocean from its surface. At OCTOS, we will use technology to submerge students of all ages so they can explore the riches of the ocean and help solve its global challenges.”
OCTOS is designed to expand science education for kindergarten through 12th graders. It is expected to fill critical educational needs for the region and the state and could not come at a more important time. While scientific issues including climate change and other ocean-related concerns are in the foreground, California’s eighth graders have ranked last in the country in the sciences, according to studies by the National Science Foundation.
Perched on bluffs above the ocean, the building will provide a home for a cutting-edge partnership between the federal government, UCSB, and private philanthropy. With educational programs and administrative offices located in the same building, the university and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary will operate synergistically in their mutual mission of education and public service.
CINMS is part of the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 2005, Senator Diane Feinstein and Representative Lois Capps were instrumental in obtaining funds on behalf of NOAA to support the building and all of its components.
UCSB is seeking private philanthropy to provide the balance of support for the building and its outreach programs. “Supporting the Ocean Science Education building and OCTOS is a great opportunity for philanthropists to be in on the ground floor of a very important project,” said Mark Brzezinski, acting director of MSI. “We hope that an individual or family in the area will want to put their name on the facility, and thereby help to light up the scientific imaginations of generations of students to come. The completion of OCTOS largely depends on this philanthropy.”
MSI, which ranks among the top five marine study institutes in the country, has for five years been providing an exciting educational program called The REEF, or Research, Experience, Education Facility. The REEF includes touch tank facilities, an educational beach experience and tours of active marine laboratories, as well as a The new facility will include and enhance the REEF experience in a variety of ways. This program is not a traditional aquarium, but rather an experiential teaching tool that is designed to allow young students to perform scientific research and experience the essence of what it is to be a scientist.