EXTRAORDINARY PHYTOPLANKTON: MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE – AND CONNECT THE DOTS BETWEEN THE OCEAN, OUR DAILY LIFE, AND CLIMATE CHANGE (6-8 GRADE)

I am working with AYA [Alliance for Youth Achievement] in San Jose on this project that was delayed due to the Covid19. The project was made possible with grants from San Jose Cultural Affairs and the California Arts Council, and a collaboration with the Laboratoire d’Oceanographie (Oceanography Laboratory) de Villefranche in France.

“Extraordinary Phytoplankton: Make the invisible visible” is An art and Science project taking place at elementary and middle schools in and around Villefranche-sur-Mer in Southern France: College Vento in Menton (6, 7 and 8 grade) and Calderoni Elementary School in Villefranche-Sur-Mer (4th grade).

The project will continue in California, with the participation of middle school students from San Jose. All the contributions will be combined in a large installation at the Laboratoire d’Oceanographie de Villefranche-Sur-Mer in 2022.

Students create a collaborative art installation with representations of an ensemble of phytoplankton species. To make observational drawings, they use prints of the photos of phytoplankton taken during the TONGA mission in 2019 in the South Pacific Ocean. I am collaborating with my sister Cecile Guieu, Research Director at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and director of the TONGA mission.

Students bring food boxes from home to make their creations. The occasion to reflect on the materials we use and understand what it takes, from material extraction to distribution, to make a simple box.

Students learn about a surprising link between the energy (mostly fossil) it takes to make a box (extraction, machines, transportation) and phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton is extraordinary and vital on many levels (absorbs CO2, releases O2, sequesters carbon, is the base of the food chain in the ocean). But it is also at the origin of the formation of fossil fuels (oil and gas). It takes millions of years for the process to be completed. And today, although oil, in particular, is one incredible energy (extremely concentrated and easy to transport and to use), its use poses an unprecedented threat to the biosphere. We are living the time when we have to stop using it and transition to other energies.

Images were taken during the workshop with 6, 7, and 8-grade students,
College Vento (Vento Middle School), Menton, France

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