One teacher is headed to the high seas this August in the name of scientific inquiry.
Jason Pittman, a Hollin Meadows science teacher, is one of two Fairfax County Public Schools teachers selected for the Educators at Sea as Part of 2012 Nautilus Exploration Program, which offers teachers the opportunity to explore the geology, biology, archaeology and chemistry of the Black and the Mediterranean seas. Pittman and Lanier Middle School science teacher Bonnie Keller are two of only 12 educators from across the United States to be selected for the program.
“This is kind of an opportunity to be something of a storyteller for the Nautilus, which is why I’m so excited about it,” Pittman, 37, told Patch. “We get to, from an educational viewpoint, be a little bit of the mouthpiece for the ship.”
For one month, the educators will monitor the ship’s website during live dives using remotely-operated submarines. Video from the dives, filmed from the submarines, is broadcast live on the website. Pittman also will help answer questions that come in through the website, write the ship’s blog and broadcast Q&A sessions three times a day to Nautilus live theaters in the United States.
Pittman was aboard the same ship last year through a different program, National Geographic’s JASON Project, which produces a textbook DVD series that includes narrative storytelling from the field. During that trip, he helped film for the DVD and was able to meet the crew and the chief researcher. There, he learned about the Educators at Sea program and was encouraged to apply.
“It was very, very exciting when I was there in the fall,” Pittman said. “I never wanted to sleep. There was just so much going on. … I felt like anytime I was in my cabin sleeping, I was missing something. So I just stayed up all night long sometimes, in conversations, or looking at data with scientists and trying to learn anything I could.”
Moreover, the experience will allow Pittman an opportunity to share what he learns on the trip with his students at Hollin Meadows.
“That’s one of the things I think is so important on the elementary level, to get kids really, really excited about things,” he said. “I think we’re doing more maybe than making sure they have all of the content memorized. If they’re just really enthusiastic, feel good about science, have a good science identity at this point, I think we’re going to propel them into upper-level science more easily.”
Pittman has taught all grades at the school for nine years through a program supported in part by the Hollin Meadows Partnership for Science and Math. Prior to that, he ran a computer company in Richmond. He also ran a program that sent college students to a volunteer program in Miami and volunteered in this own free time.
“It just got so that more and more I just loved that part of my day more than what I was doing with my business,” he said. He sold his business and attended James Madison University to earn his master’s degree in education.
In his spare time, Pittman is a member of the storytelling organization Story League DC, where he recently won the organization’s storytelling tournament. That helped him land an upcoming live show at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington. The stories focus on first-person, non-fiction narratives.
Hollin Meadows Principal Jon Gates said it was an honor for the school that Pittman was chosen for the program in a highly competitive process.
“Jason is someone who is incredibly talented, and that comes out in his creativity,” he said. “He has a broad knowledge base about how students learn, and he connects that with his creativity to create enthusiasm around our science program.”
The 2012 Nautilus Exploration Program is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ocean Exploration Trust, Sea Research Foundation, Office of Naval Research, National Geographic Society, University of Rhode Island and private donors.