Unraveling Ocean Mysteries with the Ocean Sciences Club

A peek into the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Discovery Classroom on a Wednesday evening will have you wishing you were a kid again. You might see kids examining birds ‘nests or conducting salinity experiments. They might be looking at invertebrates under microscopes or intensely discussing a scientific problem. One thing’s for certain though, they’ll be laughing. Wednesdays mark the meeting of the Ocean Sciences Club, a fun after-school club for local students in grades 7-12.

Maille records temperature data, observing how an object’s mass affects how quickly it cools in water.

During the month of November the Ocean Sciences Club explored the properties of water. We experimented with the relationship between how salty water is and its density. We examined that rate at which different objects cool in water, discussed what conditions are necessary for water to freeze, and talked about why we find ice in the polar regions. Last week’s project involved watching ice melt. Think that sounds dull, think again! The room was full of “oooohing and awwwing” as we watched super salty brine channels appear in our melting sea ice samples.

Here are a few of the observations logged by club members:

Melting sea water ice looks like… “rain on a window”… a “crystally, foggy maze” and had a “slimy texture”
Fresh water ice was… “smooth and cold”… with “a lighter color and air bubbles” and was “shinier” than sea ice as it melted.

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When food dye was added to the melting samples students noted that “the dye ran over the (fresh water) ice” while the dye “sunk into the salt ice”. One student went so far as to comment that the “dye (was) spreading like a virus” through the brine channels in the sea ice.

Joel and Simon watch as food dye spreads through brine channels in their sea ice sample.

We wrapped up our study of water with a discussion on why sea ice is important to the Arctic ecosystem. Students agreed sea ice is important because people in the Arctic rely on it for travel and to find food, because it provides habitat for lots of polar animals (and for Santa!) and because melting sea ice may impact the environment.

So what’s next for the Club? This week we’re transitioning our focus to marine mammals. Up first, we’ll be talking about Steller sea lions as we articulate a real sea lion skeleton.

Know a teen who might like to join the club? Tell them to check out our blog oceansciencesclub.tumblr.com or just come to a meeting- Wednesdays from 5-6:30 PM at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

One Comment

  1. Thank you to Callie and Darrin. The kids are having a great time learning about our oceans and animals that live in them.
    This is a great program.