Located in beautiful Massachusetts, the WHOI is the perfect place to visit for people who have even a small interest in the ocean and how to preserve it. Visitors will leave having learned more about how important the ocean is to everyone and what they (as well as the many scientists at the institute) can do to help. The Oceanographic Institute was opened originally in the 1930s in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as the area was already home to a large scientific community.
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Their vision and mission has always included being ahead of the curve in terms of scientific research, and the center has already given so much to the world of ocean research and development of tools to do that research. Today, the community involved with the institute counts over 1000 people in its ranks, all with the same goal… to save the ocean.
The Oceanographic Institute is, primarily, an educational facility. While certain sections of it are open to the public, it is important to check with them ahead of time to see what programs and/or tours are offered on the day of the visit.
Lecture Series - Offered only in July and August and run by WHOI engineers and scientists, the lecture series is meant for visitors without any real science background. The lectures are normally head on Tuesday afternoons and are good for guests of all ages. They are held in the auditorium. With topics ranging from biology (discussion of parasites, coastal erosion) to physics (robotics, etc.), there is a lecture series for any interest level.
Walking Tours - Also in the summer, the center offers walking tours through the dock and other previously restricted. Wear comfortable shoes, as the tour lasts around an hour and a half. Registration is required as space is limited. The tour is recommended for teenage to adult visitors.
Exhibit Center - Open year-round with the exceptions of holidays, the exhibit center is open to highlight the ocean research that the institute does, as well as the vessels, tools, and instruments that have been developed to further that research. There are videos throughout the center that show the history of the WHOI, a look inside the deep-water vessel the Alvin (as well as being able to physically step inside a full-sized replica of the same vessel), and a video on the exploration of the Titanic.There is a suggested donation.
Splash Lab - On Wednesdays and Thursday at the WHOI, the center features many hands-on learning activities for children of all ages. No reservations are required, but children should comfortable clothes they do not mind getting messy!
Peanut Butter Club - Fridays at noon offer the PB Club, which is both a social event and a learning experience. These free talks (and occasionally videos) are socially relevant to current political events, but stay light and engage the public and encourage them to learn more. Coffee and light snacks are provided, but visitors can also choose to bring their own lunch.
Field trips to the institute are always a crowd pleaser! Teachers should contact the center ahead of time for reservations. Space is often limited. They will also be provided with information packets as well as maps of the center so that teachers can plan ahead with their lesson plans. They can also speak with tour guides about how best to coordinate their visit with what the center may have on display at that time. Students will also get an overview of what exactly marine biologists do, and the role of ocean engineering. With advance notice, students in grade 4 through grade 8 can also leave with a copy of Ocean Explorers magazine which has been designed to draw students in with vivid imagery and scientific terms and information at their grade level.
Teachers may also consider taking one of the teacher workshops offered at the center, which are divided by grade level. There are associated registration fees, but teachers will leave with a professional certificate and a greater knowledge of what their students may see while visiting the center.
The gift shop at the WHOI offers a wide variety of souvenirs from a visit there. Proceeds go directly back into the institute. Grab a hat, t-shirt, book, or one of many educational children’s toys. The gift shop is open the same hours as the center, and shopping is also available online.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA, 02543-1050, Phone: 508-548-1400