Adopt-A-Float Program

The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project is partnering with teachers and classrooms across the country to inspire and educate students about the Southern Ocean and climate change through its pilot “Adopt-A-Float” initiative. It creates a powerful opportunity for elementary- and secondary-aged students to engage directly with world-class scientists and learn about their research by naming and tracking SOCCOM floats.

The process is simple. As SOCCOM’s Broader Impacts lead, Climate Central identifies science teachers interested in oceanography and climate and pairs them with SOCCOM scientists scheduled to deploy floats in the Southern Ocean. Climate Central then provides the teachers with background materials (reports, videos, graphics, animations) on the Southern Ocean and on the specific work being done by SOCCOM researchers. The students have the opportunity to give a soon-to-be-deployed float a name, and follow its progress to sea through blogs written by their paired SOCCOM scientists. In addition, each classroom can track its “adopted” float’s trajectory and data collection online.

This pilot program has enjoyed tremendous success in the past year. From just one classroom in just one school in 2015, the pilot now encompasses multiple classrooms in eight schools. All total, 25 floats have been adopted and named. The chosen names have honored explorers (RE Byrd, RF Scott, EH Shackleton), scientists (Darwin, Mann) and even favorite cartoon characters (Huey, Louie and Dewey). There’s even been a Tator Tot.

Teachers, students and SOCCOM scientists have expressed strong support for the pilot program, citing a unique opportunity to interact around a shared passion for better understanding the Southern Ocean’s outsized role in our climate system. Climate Central hopes to expand the program in the coming years.