The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Seeking Expert Assistance, Part II

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my students discovering that the maps of the world are not as accurate and consistent as they had expected. While there are certainly issues with countries changing borders, changing names, or even changing existence, they were shocked when the maps couldn’t even agree on the names or even number of oceans. So, doing what I do best, I quickly sought out an expert and told my students to ask him.

And they did. I sent a packet of letters to Dr. John M. Toole, Senior Scientist in the Department of Physical Oceanography at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to ask him to settle the question once and for all.

I was so thrilled to check my mailbox after Winter Break and find a letter from Dr. Toole waiting for my class!

Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Device

After explaining what he does as a physical oceanographer, Dr. Toole explained to my students that there is actually no consensus on the number or names of the oceans! While he prefers to name the oceans as North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Indian, South Indian, Arctic, and Southern (naming eight oceans!) he has colleagues who insist that there is just one large ocean and others who argue for just three oceans and several seas.

Even though we did not get a definitive answer, my students were so excited to learn that they could write to someone who is an expert in a field and actually get a response back! I am now hoping that we can get a collection of letters to put on my bulletin board in my classroom. (And come to think of it, if we get enough, we can even migrate them to a bulletin board in the hallway!)

I don’t think Dr. Toole is present on social media, but I will be emailing him to let him know that we received his letter and were very grateful for his response!


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