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Jr Scientists In The Sea

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Providing New Hope, New Ideas, and New Attitudes

Aquatic Stewards, Scuba Summer Camp and JSIS Founder Les Burke

Founder Les Burke has been diving since 1980. He completed the Navy's school for Deep Sea Diving and Salvage in Little Creek, Virginia. As one of the Elite Navy Divers, Les took part in many salvage operations throughout the world. He spent 33 years in the Navy, 28 of those on station as a Navy diver.

Working With Kids

Over the years, Les learned that he had the patience to work with kids. He has been honored by the State of Florida for his kids-oriented prevention programming. He was also listed in the 2003 edition of "Who's Who in Florida Drug Prevention Leadership." He was a two-term Chair of the Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Council, and was the founder of the Jefferson County Teen Summit. Even while in Iraq, his demeanor and eagerness to share caused kids to flock to him.

Founding JSIS

Eager to continue to make a difference, Les founded the Junior Scientists In The Sea program in 2005. While his Navy career was blossoming, Les began training and teaching with PADI Course Director Rudy Watts. As Rudy's "Padiwan learner," Les became a PADI Instructor in 1983. The majority of his students were active duty Sailors and Marines. He often taught on base through the Morale, Welfare & Recreation department. He also completed a tour as a Navy Diving Instructor at the famed Naval Diving & Salvage Training Center. Les also taught through the Scientific Diving Programs at Florida State University and the University of Maryland. In all, Les has certified more than 2,000 divers at all levels of diving.'

Scuba Diver With Little Girl

Nonprofit Organization

JSIS is the only year-round science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) program, involving SCUBA, that collaborates with Universities and Aquariums. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, reaching out to students with a passion for marine and Earth science, humanities, scuba diving, engineering, and research service learning through exciting, place-based, hands-on activities. The program engages young in intellectual and physical activities as they develop responsibility and accountability mindsets. Participants learn what it takes to explore the ocean as well as what role they can play in maintaining it.

Our Goal

Our goal is to create new divers, scientists, and engineers who possess the passion and skills to not only enjoy the ocean, but work to protect it. JSIS is designed to expose kids to a meaningful, educational program combined with on-the-job training, hard work, and opportunities to solve real-world problems right in their own backyards. The new experiences, new places, new people, and new approach will create new hope, new ideas, and new attitudes. Instead of choosing from well-traveled, often-overcrowded trails, JSIS is blazing new ones. The intention is to help our youngest citizens create their futures through exposure to STEAM concepts as well as marine science and technology content through activities which require critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving, all under the guidance of experienced educational leaders and professionals in STEAM fields.

We teach diving physiology, diving physics, equipment safety and usage.  Participants have the opportunity to earn their Scuba Diver (or Jr. Scuba Diver) certification after completing all classroom, contained water, open-water, and final examination requirements. Participants may choose to continue their diving education by taking First Aid and CPR classes, diving specialty classes, and pursuing their Advanced Diver/Jr. Advanced Diver certification. Plus, students learn American Academy of Underwater Sciences scientific diving and research techniques. Trained dive professionals, scientists, and teachers supervise each phase of the JSIS program. Jr Scientists learn science, ecology, place-based aquatics, and environmental awareness by participating in the following activities:

  • Coral Reef Surveys, Propagation, and Restoration Initiatives
  • Fish and Invertebrate Identification and Surveys
  • Researching and Locating Invasive Species
  • Maritime Heritage and Underwater Archaeology Activities
  • Safe Boating and Navigation Classes
  • Public Speaking, Communications, and Writing for a Purpose Workshops