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About the Program

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program established the Adopt a Drifter Program in December 2004 for K-16 teachers from the United States along with international educators. This program provides teachers with an educational opportunity to infuse ocean observing system data into their curriculum. Participating teachers implement lesson plans to encourage their students to analyze and apply the drifting buoy data. Students in the teachers’ classes receive a drifter tracking chart to plot the coordinates of the drifter as it moves freely in the surface ocean currents. This enables teachers and students to more easily make connections between the drifter data maps accessed online and other maps showing currents, winds, and other factors.

Mary Cook (on right), a middle school science teacher from Southside Middle School, Batesville, Arkansas, deployed the first adopted drifting buoy in the Pacific Ocean from the NOAA ship RONALD H. BROWN. The buoy was released off the coast of Chile in December 2004. Mary’s students adopted this buoy and nicknamed it “Bob”. A children’s science book was written in conjunction with Mary’s cruise on the RONALD H. BROWN. The book, entitled Teacher at Sea: Miss Cook’s Voyage on the RONALD H. BROWN, highlights the scientific work conducted on board. 

Getting Involved

The ADP invites schools from the United States to collaborate with international schools in mutually adopting a drifter to be deployed from a ship at sea. A teacher from each school may be on board the ship during deployment, although this is not a prerequisite for participation in the Program. An educational sticker or drawing from each school is adhered to the drifter before deployment and photos are taken to document the activity. The teachers receive the WMO number of their drifting buoy in order to access data online from the school’s adopted drifter. Participating teachers develop lesson plans to encourage their students to analyze and apply the drifting buoy data. Students in the teachers’ classes receive a drifter tracking chart to plot the coordinates of the drifter as it moves freely in the surface ocean currents. This enables teachers and students to more easily make connections between the data accessed online and other maps showing currents, winds, etc.

Accessing Data

Since drifter data are used to track major ocean currents and eddies globally, ground truth data from satellites, build models of climate and weather patterns, predict the movement of pollutants if dumped or accidentally spilled into the sea, and assist with the forecast path of approaching hurricanes, it is important to understand how the data are measured, how often data are downloaded, and what data are available for schools and the general public to access. Students have full access to drifting buoy data (e.g., latitude/longitude coordinates, time, date, SST) in near real-time for their adopted drifting buoy as well as all drifting buoys deployed as part of the Global Drifter Program. They can access, retrieve, and plot various subsets of data as a time series for specified time periods for any drifting buoy (e.g., SST) and track and map their adopted drifting buoy for short and long time periods (e.g., one day, one month, one year).

Educators and students from all countries are invited to participate.
If interested, please fill out the form below.