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> 4th trip to the Arctic!
post Jun 16 2006, 02:09 PM
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TEA Teacher

Group: TEA Teacher
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Journal Entry May 17, 2006
Betty Carvellas

I’ve been asked to write about how my three research trips to the Arctic have impacted my teaching. Wow – where to begin? When I did my undergraduate work in science, research opportunities were rare; my science courses centered on lecture periods followed by lab work with prescribed outcomes. Once I became a teacher, I tried to find summer projects that would allow me to share in real world research so I could more effectively incorporate inquiry and the scientific process into my classes. When I heard about the NSF funded TEA (Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic) program, I applied immediately and was incredibly lucky to be paired with Dr. Jackie Grebmeier from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to work with the second phase of a three-phase multidisciplinary project, Shelf Basin Interactions (SBI). The project goals are to evaluate how projected global changes in temperature, sea ice coverage, and oceanographic processes may influence the exchange of materials between arctic shelves and deep water basins, and what larger impact these changes will have on Arctic communities specifically and human society in general. Fortunately for me, Jackie and I got along well on that first cruise on board the USCG icebreaker Healy, and she has invited me back for two additional cruises on board the CCGC Sir Wilfrid Laurier. (I feel I should add a note here that a “cruise” on a working ship, doing scientific research, is definitely not what one pictures when the word cruise is mentioned.) Working with Jackie, I’ve also been to a follow up meeting of the Principal Investigators involved in the SBI project, and to a national oceanography conference. While I certainly don’t consider myself a researcher, I have a much better understanding of the intricacies and complexities of the research process, an understanding that translates into my classroom.

Following my time on the Healy, I worked closely, over a three year period, with four colleagues - one in the arts at the high school, one in social studies at the middle school, one in science at the middle school, and one grade 4/5 teacher. Together we planned how we might incorporate the information about the Arctic and global climate change into our classes. The highlight of our work together was the Big Kid - Little Kid Polar Event where nearly 300 students from grades 4 – 12 enjoyed traditional Arctic foods, performed an inquiry lab investigation on insulating properties, tried their hand at “reverse scrimshaw,” and held relays to simulate the transfer of diphtheria vaccine to Nome, Alaska by sled dogs in 1925. The best part of the two day event was a visit by real Arctic researchers; Jackie and her husband, Dr. lee Cooper, spent time in each classroom to show slides, talk about their research, and answer questions.

Although our Polar Science Day was a one time event, I still go into our 6th grade classrooms each year to talk about my part in the scientific research taking place in the Arctic. I’ve even spoken to an entire Pre K – 3 school of about 230 students and an individual second grade class. They not only knew lots about the Arctic, they asked really great questions!

I’m excited about returning to the Arctic in June for my third research cruise on the Sir Wilfrid Laurier to continue my small part of the amazing research being done in this fragile and changing Arctic part of the world.
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