Honolulu teacher shares deep-sea lessons - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Honolulu teacher shares deep-sea lessons

Buffy Cushman-Patz Buffy Cushman-Patz
Kiedre Howard Kiedre Howard

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Buffy Cushman-Patz's comfort zone is her classroom at La Pietra - Hawaii School for Girls. But recently the physics and chemistry teacher was just as comfortable on a deep-sea adventure.

"I like knowing a lot about science," she said.

For five weeks she joined scientists on a research cruise off the Galapagos Islands. They studied volcanic activity on the ocean floor. Her students tracked her journey on the Internet and worked on projects linked to the trip.

"Science is done by real people, by people going out there and finding stuff and exploring stuff. And that's what we were doing. And we were translating it back to them on a daily basis," Cushman-Patz said.

She made two dives a mile and a-half down in Alvin, the same submersible that explored the Titanic. She saw rock formations, hypo thermal vents, and living things rarely seen.

Cushman-Patz is a former research scientist.

"I really understood what they were talking about at the science meetings every night. But I also understand what kids do and don't know. And so I got to play that role of bridging the gap," she said.

The bridge was a website.

Students followed her journey through pictures and postings and a long long-distance call.

"We did a call from the deep where we communicated with students who were on the phone here at La Pietra and we were down in the sub," she said.

"She told us how she was coming up to the surface and everything. And that was like we were there in the moment with her," eighth-grader Kierdre Howard said.

Cushman-Patz brought back souvenirs for her students. Styrofoam cups they colored were tied to the sides of the submersible. The underwater pressure shrank them into tiny collectibles, reminders of a lesson that went way beyond the classroom.

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