STEAM It Up: City of Cambridge K-8 Family STEAM Night

Klaus Kemp/Matthew Killip

October 24, 2019

Phytoplankton Mandalas and an introduction to the Ocean Carbon Cycle

Kids aged 3 to 13 tried their hand at the Victorian-era art form of diatom arrangements and at the same time learned what a critical role these intricately beautiful single-celled phytoplankton play in making the air we breathe and regulating the worlds’ climate. Open Ocean joined MIT Sea Grant and hosted a table at the King Open Elementary School for a Cambridge STEAM Initiatives Steam It Up event welcoming Cambridge families with children in grades K-8 to join us for an oceanographic STEAM activity. 

There are 100,000's of species of diatoms out there in the worlds' oceans, lakes, and rivers–we provided students with a minute array of diatom paper cut-outs to use. Even still they were amazed at the variety at hand at that these represented REAL cells! It sparked fun conversations regarding cell shape, function, and the important role phytoplankton play in sequestering atmospheric CO2.

Microscopists and artists of the 19th century were transfixed by the exquisite shapes and complex opaline glass coverings of diatoms and used their great beauty to share the hidden treasures in the depths of the ocean. We were thrilled to see the students embrace that same fascination and learn more about these important organisms.

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