One world, one ocean

March 12, 2010 in China by Ari Daniel

by Kit Yu Karen Chan

COSEE-China in the polar region!

Time flies and this is the last day of our COSEE-China workshop.

Lighthouse on the water's edge in Qingdao

Lighthouse on the water's edge in Qingdao

We gathered early in the morning to visit the Ocean Polar World of Qingdao before we catch our flights. It was quite amazing to see the wide range of animals on display and the size of the crowd in the exhibition halls. With our marine educator hats on, it was quite encouraging to see the great potential for teaching and learning to happen in a venue like the Ocean Polar World. For examples, the charismatic penguins and polar bears can be a good set way into what are the differences between the Artic and Antarctic; and the signage congratulating Chinese researchers to research Dome C can be elaborated into interactive station on how research is done in the Polar Regions. After all, learning can take place anywhere and we should help facilitate that progress. (am I right, Laura, the “informal education person” on board?) I look forward to seeing many visitors benefit from the collaborations between researchers, zoos and aquariums and COSEE-China in the future.

One world, One Ocean

“One world, one dream” was the theme of the 2008 Beijing Olympics which reflects the universal values of the Olympic spirit — Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream.

This international collaborative effort of COSEE-China planning workshop shared similar values and highlighted the similarities between the States and China i.e., the importance of the ocean to us, our impact on the ocean, the challenges and demand of ocean literacy for all and the passion for our ocean. Because there is only one big ocean on our planet, we are all bound to work together.

Through creativity and emphasizing on excellence, COSEE-US has successfully impacted people from all walks on lives in various manners. However, good programs could not succeed with out good people. Members of COSEE are like family who supports each other. Despite our backgrounds are different, we share the passion for ocean education and common goals. I believe the friendship that we have built over the last few days both between the Chinese and US participants will not fade because of distance because we know we are still connected together through our big ocean.

As the name of the workshop suggested, this is just the planning stage. The end of this workshop is the beginning of a lot of exciting projects to come. We are happy to report that our Chinese colleagues are going to hold a 2nd meeting in a few months to discuss details of the establishment of a national centers and pilot projects, and the Ocean University of China is planning to host an International Meeting on Interdisciplinary Teaching in Ocean Sciences in late 2010 or early 2011. This was a very good start, I believe. Like the Olympic Games, the planning workshop itself might come to an end but the values got passed on and start to inspire many through different channels. So, stay tuned for new developments of COSEE-China and its activities.

Qingdao and Ocean University of China

March 12, 2010 in China by Carrie Armbrecht

After two very full days in Xiamen, we arrived in coastal city of Qingdao this afternoon (Friday March 12th). Qingdao is the home of the Ocean University of China (OUC ), which has both undergraduate and graduate programs in oceanography and fisheries sciences. OUC has three campuses: one in the old part of the city, one west of the city, and the one at the foot of the Laoshan Mountains. Only three years old, Laoshan Campus is beautiful. First stop was a tour of the College of Physical and Environmental Oceanography where we were warmly welcomed.

We saw their display of historic physical oceanography instruments as well as a demonstration of their water wave tank. Watching the waves grow, I couldn’t wait for them to get bigger and bigger but it was time to go on to the next building. In the College of Marine Geosciences they had an amazing collection of rocks, minerals and fossils. I was truly awed by some of their specimens on display.

We finished our stay at the campus meeting with OUC officials, faculty and graduate students. In our conversation we learned more about the structure of research and teaching; undergraduate and graduate education; and educational outreach at OUC. In turn we answered questions about COSEE for the people who weren’t able to make our meeting in Beijing. We also shared things we learned from our visit in Xiamen. It was heartening to have representatives from all parts of OUC so interested in a COSEE-China:

  • Hua Dai, Director of International Office
  • Wenhong Song, Director of Higher Education Research and Evaluation Center
  • Huiwang Gao, Dean of the College of Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Wensheng Jiang, Deputy Dean of the College of Physical and Environmental Oceanography
  • Sanzhong Li, Professor in the College of Marine Geosciences
  • Haibing Ding, Professor in the College of Marine Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
  • Weining Zou, Chief Interpreter of the International Office

Out of the many ideas exchanged, we were especially excited about the potential of co-hosting a future marine science education conference together. The evening concluded with a wonderful banquet hosted by OUC. With 19 of us around one table we toasted to future collaborations, visits and COSEE-China. As expressed by many tonight we arrived in China with the hope of building a partnership but we are leaving with so much more: new friends and an enlarged COSEE family.

An Auspicious Beginning to COSEE-China

March 12, 2010 in China by Carrie Armbrecht

blog entry by Eric Simms

I was expecting a lot of things upon my arrival in Beijing – new sights, new sounds, new food, new people.  But not snow.  Although it’s not unusual for it to be cold in Beijing this time of year, it is unusual for it to snow there.  Not only was I surprised, but our Chinese colleagues were, too – especially the ones who had to travel across the city for an early start to our meeting.  It turned out, however, that the snow is considered an auspicious sign that the gods are smiling in our favor, so our efforts here appeared to be off to a good start.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this workshop.  Initially I imagined that a number of differences – e.g., language, how the research and education communities are structured – would outweigh our ability to make significant progress in our limited time together.  But after four days, I’m encouraged and excited about the possibility of advancing ocean sciences education in China.  We’ve had a chance to learn about the state of ocean science research and education from many Chinese scientists and educators, and have done our best to reciprocate.

As I write this, we’re all on a 3-hour flight from Xiamen (pronounced ‘sha-men’) to Qingdao (pronounced ‘ching-dow’).  We’ve just finished a 48-hour visit on the southern China coast to visit one of the leading oceanographic institutions in the country – Xiamen University.  Our time was spent visiting high school and undergraduate students and educators, and ocean scientists, to learn more about how their education and research programs are structured.

Interestingly enough, scientists and educators here share many of the same challenges and constraints as those in the U.S. – primarily, limited time and resources, and swimming against the tide of established professional cultures that are often resistant to change.  Not surprisingly, Chinese students would rather not spend their days in a class room any more than students in the U.S., perhaps even more so since their days begin at 7;30 and end at 4:30, followed by 3 hours of homework.

In general, the pre-college education experience for Chinese students is based on a very prescribed, rigorous curriculum largely determined by the federal government. A tremendous amount of importance is placed on standardized tests that students take in middle school and high school, which largely determine whether or not they are able to attend university, and what career opportunities they will be able to pursue.  As a Chinese student, your academic performance can either open or close doors of opportunity, but once they close it can be nearly impossible to open them again. As a result, Chinese students are under a tremendous amount of pressure to excel at their studies.

Similar to the U.S., ocean science concepts are largely absent from the Chinese curriculum and testing, and their educational system appears to leave little room for including new approaches.  For those of us engaged in ocean sciences education in the US. it is encouraging to know that we are facing the same challenges, and may be able to work together towards some common solutions.  But perhaps most important is the desire and will that has been expressed by all parties during this workshop to move forward with this collaboration.  It may all begin with small steps, and time will tell the outcome, but it seems like the right people and organizations are involved to get things moving and affect some change.

I’ll sign off by sharing the Chinese character for ‘ocean’.  Collectively, it’s a combination of the three characters for water, mother, and man – taken together it translates as ‘The ocean is the mother of all mankind’.  It’s hard to think of a more fitting reminder of the fact that there is only one global ocean, and just as the ocean takes care of all of us, we’re all on the hook to return the favor.

海 The ocean = 水 water + 人 man + 母 mother

Walker's walk through Xiamen

March 11, 2010 in China by Ari Daniel

By Walker Smith

Today was our chance to see the state of ocean education in Xiamen, as we were able to visit Kenji Affiliated School and meet with students from the Middle and High Schools. We had a presentation by a selected student who talked about the school and marine science club, and then we talked with small groups of students (who had questions prepared for us). One student in my group had spent a year in the US, as his mother was a visiting professor at Brown! He expressed annoyance at how Chinese are portrayed by movies and TV. We then toured the school grounds some, and I played badminton with a student. Although we overstayed our allotted time, it gave us all a chance to better understand the issues of the children as they relate to ocean education.

Then food. We all embarrassed ourselves at an international buffet where we had food ranging from chicken feet to samosas to salad to steak. Note to self: lay off the chocolate fountain!

Then to Xiamen University where we interrupted a marine plankton course and again spoke with small groups about ocean education. I found the students to be quite diverse, with some wanting to attend graduate school, others wanting a job, and others wanting to get married! I had fun chatting with six young ladies and giving them candy! And telling them about my life as an oceanographer!

After a quick tour of various labs in Marine Environmental Research and a trip to Floor 21 for a panoramic view of Xiamen, we were taken to Egret Park for more food. It again was great: shrimp, crab, duck, duck liver, seafood soup, fish, noodles, desert, and the wonderful watermelon. Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the beer and wine. I found our Chinese hosts all charming and so very helpful. One can’t help but take a great impression home about China from them.

So the long day came to an end for some of us; others shopped and sang karaoke (at a KTV) for further relaxation. Tomorrow more experiences await us in Qingdao.

Xiamen & Georgia

March 9, 2010 in China by Ari Daniel

By Lundie Spence, COSEE SE

For almost two days, we have had lively brainstorming to understand our individual systems. Both our US and Chinese colleagues face similar opportunities and challenges to get researchers engaged in outreach. Our COSEE strategies are considered interesting. Learning about each other is exciting. Dr Min Liu from Xiamen University on the coast studies the life cycle of grouper and knows the research team that includes George Sedberry, director of NOAA Grays Reef NMS in Georgia. It is a small world and one ocean! Our COSEE SE/SEACOOS poster, Who Goes with the Flow, on Gulf Stream and larval dispersal, held interest. The community action involving retrieving marine litter is also done on some coasts. We are only beginning our networks. Thanks Bob and Xuchen for leadership.

Collaboration Commences

March 8, 2010 in China by Carrie Ferraro

Today was the first official day of the workshop and, along with the compulsory nametag, each participant was presented with a gift bag containing a commemorative COSEE t-shirt and a beautiful plaque from our Chinese collaborators.  These will make amazing keepsakes of our experience.

The meeting began with welcoming speeches and introductions.  Then it was time to get down to business. We learned about the state of ocean science research and education in both countries.  As Dr. Chen noted, comparing crocodiles and alligators will give you more information than studying just the croc, meaning comparing our two systems will help us to learn more about our own.  After the talks outlining the background information and lunch, we moved on to talk of the COSEE Network.  We learned the origins of COSEE, how it is run, and were provided with an example of a successful COSEE center, COSEE Southeast.  Now we were prepped for group discussions.  We split ourselves into groups with representatives from both countries and shared our ideas on the purpose and goals of a COSEE China.  We also identified barriers and opportunities for COSEE China and international collaboration.  This productive dialogue was followed by a poster session.

Participants from both countries exhibited their work and everyone was engaged in lively interaction. Lastly, it was time for dinner. The food was delicious though mysterious, even our Chinese friends could not identify all of the dishes. After dinner, we parted ways, some left to blog and e-mail while others rested up for another productive day.

Pre-Planning and Peking duck

March 8, 2010 in China by Carrie Armbrecht

Blog entry by:  Kim Frashure

As stated by Xuchen, “We are in Beijing; we have to try Peking duck, right?”  Last evening the U.S. COSEE-China workshop members convened for the first time at Beijing’s world famous Peking duck restaurant near Quanjude.    Approximately fifteen of us were seated at a large round table in a private room.  Introductions were made and undeniably, the breadth and depth of ocean science expertise, facilitation, and education was overwhelmingly impressive.   C0-PI, Bob Chen, outlined the schedule for tomorrow, detailed who’s who among our Chinese partners, and restated the overall goal for the week which included discovering the best networked model among a variety of models for COSEE-China.

Soon afterward our Peking duck arrived where it was carefully sliced into thin slivers by our server.  Bob Chen demonstrated how to roll our thin pancake flat before adding the slivers of crispy and moist duck, scallions, and cucumber, and then, rolled it up, and dipped it in a thick plum sauce.  Apparently Peking duck dates back to the Ming Dynasty era (1368) and later played a role in warming U.S./China relationships during President Nixon’s presidency.  Given the rich history of Peking duck and the careful detail that goes into its preparation, I think that it was the most suitable cuisine to serve while we outlined our own careful details in forging this new and uncharted relationship with COSEE and China.

The day we became heroes and gained luck.

March 7, 2010 in China by Carrie Armbrecht

By Carrie Armbrecht

Since the workshop does not officially start until tomorrow, we had today to recover from jet lag and do some site seeing.  The first part of our journey brought us to the Badaling Great Wall, which is one of the best-restored sections of the wall. It was built during the Ming Dynasty (1300s-1600s) in the valley of two mountains. Our tour guide Janet explained that one is not a man until he climbs the Great Wall. Once you climb it you are considered a hero, and for a few rmb (Chinese money) you can buy a certificate that says so.  I preferred photographic evidence of my heroism.

I had seen the snaking wall in pictures, but they really don’t portray how steep it actually is. I can’t imagine the soldiers running to defend the wall with the weight of all of their gear on.

Though it is still winter in Beijing, not everyone was prepared for the snowfall that greeted us when we got to the Wall. Choice of footwear didn’t stop many from climbing, though. I saw lot of sneakers and a few high-heeled boots. For the most part it wasn’t too treacherous, but I have to admit that on the way down there was one part where I decided to take control of my slipping and sliding.  Sitting on my bottom I had a nice slide down, and entertained many of the other tourists in the process.

After lunch we continued on our journey to the Ming Tombs. It is here that 13 of the 16 Ming Emperors are buried. Janet said that the Tombs have the best feng shui, as their location has both wind from the mountains and water from the river: ying and yang. Good feng shui brings luck, and visiting the tombs would bring us luck. We walked through an outer courtyard full of trees and gateways leading to the mound. We went underground and walked through massive marble doors to a series of connecting vaults. Here emperor Wanli and two empresses are buried and have thrones.

(photo by Lundie Spence)

Our visit ended with the best find of the day- panda hats. Seeing them at the Wall and again at the Tomb, it was just too much for Laura, Ari and Bob to pass up. The rest of us were jealous and now have panda hat envy.

We finished our journey driving through the Olympic Village, and then made our way to dinner at Quanjude.  A full day of exercise, food, amazing sites, heroism, and luck- I think we will all sleep well tonight.

First crew arrived

March 6, 2010 in China by Ari Daniel

Eight of us took the 13-hour flight from Newark to Beijing earlier today. We arrived 6 hours ago and have now all checked into the hotel. Xuchen found out about a delicious restaurant where we dined tonight. All of us are WIPED and ready for bed! More soon, once we’re rested.

China bound!

March 3, 2010 in China by Ari Daniel

We visit the Great Wall of China upon arriving.  Credit: National Geographic Society.

We visit the Great Wall of China upon arriving. Credit: National Geographic Society.

This Friday I head to China with 14 other COSEE members! We’re visiting Beijing, Xiamen and Qingdao to participate in a workshop discussing the possibility of establishing a COSEE-China. I’m really looking forward to the trip, though I have a lot to do before I leave like packing (!), backing up my hard drive, and finding the right power adaptor. It will be relatively cool this time of year so I plan to bring plenty of warm clothes.

Check back here between 7-13 March for blog updates of our travels and the workshop!

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