Roane State biology professor Bruce Cantrell, an experienced scuba diver, will teach an online biology course this fall while he lives and works in an underwater habitat for 72 days.
Roane State Community College biology professor Bruce Cantrell has always wanted to teach a course on living under the sea.
He developed a fascination with the sea years ago while serving in the Navy. Books about undersea exploration line his office shelves. A promotional poster for the famed Jacques Cousteau-directed documentary “World without Sun” hangs on his wall.
This fall, Cantrell will finally have a chance to teach Roane State students about living and working under the sea. And he’ll do it while he actually lives and works under the sea.
Cantrell and faculty member Jessica Fain will live and teach from an underwater habitat for 72 days this fall. While they live in a space the size of a college dorm room submerged about 25 feet, Cantrell and Fain will host weekly shows titled Classroom Under the Sea.
The shows, presented in partnership with the Marine Resources Development Foundation in Key Largo, Fla., will feature scientists and explorers and will cover topics such as underwater archeology and ocean exploration.
In addition to the weekly programs, Cantrell will also teach his dream class online, BIOL 2600: Living and Working Under the Sea. Enrolled Roane State students can register for the class now, but only 30 spots are available.
Students in the class will be able to interact live with Cantrell and Fain through video conferencing.
“What we’re going to do, staying 72 days, has never been done before,” Cantrell said. “Teaching an online, college-level course from an underwater habitat has never been done before. I’m excited to share this experience with Roane State students and to engage them in learning about marine science. I can’t wait, and I hope students will be excited that while they chat with me online, I’ll be 25 feet underwater living in the environment they are studying.”
Cantrell and Fain will start their underwater adventure Oct. 4 and resurface on Dec. 15. They will live in Jules’ Undersea Lodge, which is in the lagoon at the Marine Resources Development Foundation’s facilities in Key Largo. The weekly programs will be available for anyone to watch at roanestate.edu/classroomunderthesea and on youtube.com/classroomunderthesea.
During their stay, Cantrell and Fain will set a world record for the longest time spent living underwater. What excites Cantrell and Fain most, though, is the opportunity to show young students the value of education in science.
"The coolness factor is definitely there,” Fain said. “But I think there is a great need for education for our middle schoolers especially in science or marine biology. To be able to reach people in this kind of manner is something that hasn’t been done, and I think that’s going to be very exciting. If maybe even a fourth of students who watch us, or not even students just people, if even a fourth of them become interested in science, interested in conserving our marine ecosystems, then to me it’s been a success”
Roane State has a long relationship with the Marine Resources Development Foundation. Since 2005, Cantrell has taken about 20 students a year to participate in the foundation’s MarineLab education program.
Roane State fall classes begin Aug. 25.
For more information about the Classroom Under the Sea, visit roanestate.edu/classroomunderthesea.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge and Wartburg.
Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. All colleges in the system offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit tncommunitycolleges.org.
Located in Key Largo, Fla., the Marine Resources Development Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the goal of developing a better understanding of Earth's marine resources. For more information, visit mrdf.org.