| Posted: Friday, Sep 14, 2012 02:11 pm
Paul Kane science teacher Candice Jwaszko began scuba diving 12 years ago, but until a few weeks ago never dreamed she would have the opportunity to be a CREW member on an ocean research ship in French Polynesia.
Jwaszko, who teaches French immersion science to students in Grades 10, 11 and 12, only heard about the Living Oceans Foundation at the beginning of August. She soon set aside all other priorities to apply for a position in the CREW, which stands for Coral Reef Educator on the Water.
“The application was only open Aug. 1 to Aug. 17 and it was open to all of North America. It involved writing essays and also a Skype interview but I’m ecstatic to say I was selected. I will be working with a coral reef expedition in French Polynesia for two weeks in October,” Jwaszko said.
The 10-year-old Living Oceans Foundation was started by Khaled bin Sultan, a Saudi Arabian prince who was concerned about the health of the coral reef habitat in the Red Sea. He remains chairman of the project and its main source of funds.
Jwaszko was one of 30 applicants for the expedition and will be the first educator to sail as a CREW member onboard the foundation’s yacht, The Golden Shadow, which can house up to 24 researchers.
Jwaszko will observe the research that is conducted as the French Polynesian coral reefs are mapped and then she will develop educational programs to help increase public understanding of coral reefs.
“Until now, the foundation was really focused on the research aspect, but the long-term goal was always to increase ocean literacy that could yield to greater public understanding of the global issues affecting coral reefs,” education director Eddie Gonzalez said by phone from the organization’s headquarters in Landover, Md.
“Therefore the goal of the CREW program is to engage educators in the work of the foundation in order to foster greater ocean literacy.”
Jwaszko grew up in St. Albert and graduated from Paul Kane before going on to obtain science and education degrees with a specialty in environmental studies. She has taught scuba diving and been on dives throughout the world.
“Her role will not be part of the research but she will have the opportunity to dive. As an educator she will benefit not just from the research but also by observing the methodology,” Gonzalez said.
Jwaszko will contribute to the creation of course material to help educators teach about the Global Reef Expedition in the classroom. She will also write a daily blog for other educators to log onto, Gonzalez said.
He added that Jwaszko’s ability to speak French would enable her to work with teachers and students in French Polynesia.
French Polynesia is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous being Tahiti, located in the South Pacific Ocean.
The Global Reef Expedition works at the invitation of local governments or non-profit partners. It will continue from French Polynesia in a westward fashion and will be close to the Cook Islands by March. The plan is to reach the Red Sea in 2016.
The educational component of the foundation will be expanded with a total of eight CREW opportunities planned in 2013, Gonzalez said.
As a Paul Kane teacher for the last six years, Jwaszko leads students in the Social Justice Club and has taken them on river clean ups and to Envirothon conferences in other Alberta communities. Her hope is that she can learn about the research being done on coral reefs and yet still make it relevant to students living in St. Albert.
“My main job will be making educational resources that can be used in the Alberta curriculum for use in the classroom but I will also be Skyping six schools. I’ll also meet local teachers in Tahiti and I’ll be Skyping my own students here as well as students in Northern Alberta, in the United States and in French Polynesia,” she said.
Living Oceans Foundation will pay for everything including travel arrangements. It will even cover the cost for a substitute teacher to take over her Paul Kane classroom for the two weeks that she is absent.
“I will be collaborating with international scientific researchers while living aboard a research vessel making educational resources for teachers and students to use to encourage awareness about coral reef preservation. My hope is that I can bring what I learn home to my students and tell them the story and make it real,” Jwaszko said.
Paul Kane principal Duncan Knoll is also excited about the opportunity presented to Jwaszko and anticipates that her journey will help her teach students interesting facts about the way the ecosystems of the world are connected.
“She’s going to be building international curriculum and that’s always exciting for a teacher,” said Knoll. “It will be an excellent experience and will enrich her classroom when she returns.”