DEARBORN — A teacher for Smith Middle School in Dearborn got the rare opportunity last summer to spend more than two weeks at sea searching for sharks with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I’ve always loved sharks,” art teacher Stephen Kade said.
While attending professional development last year, he heard a session on teaching abroad that included information about the NOAA Teachers at Sea program. Every year, 23 teachers are chosen to participate in the program. They spend 19 days at sea helping the agency.
While Midwesterners think of NOAA for the weather forecasts and alerts, the agency also studies the waters around the United States, and one department is dedicated to ocean fisheries.
Kade sailed along the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina helping catch, study and release sharks and other fish every day. The crew had only two minutes to take all their measurements and samples and tag each shark before lowering it back into the water. The crew worked in 12-hour shifts.
“The best part about getting out there is as a teacher,” Kade said. The sharks are nothing like what viewers see on Shark Week or in movies. He got to see and handle a variety of sharks including sharp nose, nurse, tiger, great hammerhead and sandbar.
He has been sharing that experience with his Smith students and expects to make stops in other Dearborn Public School classrooms. He also wrote a blog during his time aboard the boat and took pictures. All that information is public at http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/2018/Stephen*Kade/ship.
DPS also created a video about Kade and posted it on the district YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/V-JsR_cB3Ho.
“I always like to tell all my students that the world is a very large place and we are a small part of that,” Kade said.
While issues like polluted oceans and declining shark populations may seem far away, local waterways face similar problems, including fish too contaminated to eat.
Kade was one of only two art teachers who have been selected for the Teachers at Sea program. More often science or math teachers are included, but he felt he submitted a strong application showing how he has his art students combine paintings and research to educate other students about sea life and the threats some animals face.
“There are many ways to learn,” Kade said. “Obviously, I think art is the best.”
From his blog during the trip, “Never in my life did I think I would get an opportunity to do something like this as I’ve dreamed about it for decades, and now my dreams have come true. … I can’t wait to get home and spread the word about NOAA’s mission and how they are helping make the world a better place and are advocating for the conservation of these beautiful animals!”