Speaker urges promoting science to kids

Robin Huiras

The discoverer of the Titanic and founder of the JASON Project sent a message to a packed auditorium Monday night: The future of exploration lies in exciting children about science.
Oceanographer Robert Ballard spoke at the Ted Mann Concert Hall about some of his adventures and the way ordinary individuals can partake in adventures like his own through a simple process — learning.
“After I discovered the Titanic, thousands of children wrote to me asking what they have to do to do what (I) do,” Ballard said. “Clearly, it is to go to school and study. I’ve never stopped learning. I never want to stop learning; it rejuvenates me.”
Through the JASON Project, Ballard has taught thousands of middle and high school students from across the nation the value of science and what it can do for all of humankind.
Sending his message to the enthralled audience, Ballard touched on many topics, the most important of which was promoting children’s interest in science.
“The focus of the presentation is getting everyone excited about how science connects to everyday life,” said Amy Theisen, director of distance learning at the Bell Museum of Natural History.
Within his career, Ballard has made more than 100 deep-sea expeditions. Although finding the Titanic in 1985 is the most famous of Ballard’s discoveries, he also uncovered the German Battleship Bismark and the USS Yorktown. Besides sunken ships, his entire career has been filled with uncovering new and bizarre oceanic formations.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Ballard has studied sea-floor spreading: the expansion of the ocean floor from the continuous outpouring of lava. He also found unusual bacterium in gigantic clams — the same bacterium found in an ancient meteorite from Mars. In 1979 he discovered Black Smokers: tube-like formations on the ocean floor that force flows of 650 degree poisonous nitrates into the ocean.
He also looks to the sky for new discoveries, searching for hidden water and volcanoes on Jupiter’s moons.
“My greatest expeditions are the ones I have yet to do,” Ballard said.
There are several hundred thousand sunken ships waiting to be discovered; 99.9 percent of ocean waters are yet unexplored, and children will carry this exploration into the next century, he added.
“The next generation of explorers will explore more of the earth than all previous generations combined,” Ballard said.
“You have to look at education as a long-distance run,” Ballard said. “I’m 56 years old, done 110 expeditions, I’m in the prime of my career — I picked the right sport. They’ll (children) realize once they are excited, they want to play in the game.”