Why TREC in the Arctic:

The Arctic Region: A Dynamic Laboratory

The arctic region is dynamic and complex, projecting a sense of mystery and awe. It is a region of many environments and cultures–polar bears and whales, months of darkness and months of light, indigenous peoples with time-tested solutions to the challenges of surviving in extreme conditions–as well as a region where the tools of modern science are being deployed to help understand puzzling but dramatic events.

In the last few decades, the scientific community has expressed concern about the vulnerability of the Arctic and its residents to environmental, social, and economic changes. Climate models indicate that the arctic environment may react particularly sensitively to global climate change. Recent research results show that arctic climate and ecosystems are changing substantially, with impacts on people living in and outside the Arctic. Many arctic residents are reporting rapid ecosystem change and believe that these developments are affecting their lives in significant ways. These processes appear to be linked to changes in the whole Northern Hemisphere, involving physical and biological processes in the atmosphere, ocean, and on land. We know that many of the phenomena we study in the Arctic, from deepest oceans to the atmosphere above, are part of global processes that affect people all across America.

Local knowledge, oral histories, and Native ways of knowing are important aspects of educating the world about life in the Arctic and the history of the region. People living in the circum-Arctic have coped successfully over millennia with an environment that includes some of the most extreme conditions on the planet, accumulating an extensive body of environmental knowledge as well as keen awareness of ecosystem changes. Arctic residents have a growing desire and capacity to share Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with researchers and the public. The Arctic serves as a laboratory of multidisciplinary research projects using cutting-edge techniques in a challenging environment to address questions at the local, regional and global scale. TREC builds on the outstanding scientific and cultural opportunities of the Arctic to link research and education through intriguing topics that will engage students and a public interested in exploring new regions and scientific mysteries.

To learn more about the Arctic, visit:

NOAA's Arctic Theme Page
: www.arctic.noaa.gov

The Arctic Is - a web resource for human-environment relationships in the Arctic: http://www.thearctic.is/

National Geographic Xpeditions - Arctic and Antarctic: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/activities/05/circles.html

Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning
The Teachers & Researchers - Exploring and Collaborating (TREC) program is built upon the inquiry-based teaching and learning methods suggested in the National Science Foundation's 2003 report New Formulas for America's Workforce http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2003/nsf03207/nsf03207.pdf, which calls for:

  • Engaging in hands-on activity, using touch, smell, and motion to experience and study the world;
  • Working in productive teams, collaborating, learning from and with colleagues;
  • Looking at real-world contexts and problems with a scientific eye;
  • Emphasizing personal mastery and developing confidence through problem-solving.
New Formulas additionally encourages "exposure to a diverse array of working scientists and engineers to engage learners and open minds to attractive careers." TREC answers the New Formulas report's call to inquiry-based learning and TREC facilitates exposure to working scientists by matching teachers with field research teams and projects where they participate in cutting-edge research and directly engage in the process of science. These teachers then take inquiry-and place-based science engagement into the classroom; sharing their experience and the team's research with teachers and learners the world over though posting journal entries online, contributing learning objects and activities to a searchable database, and connecting and collaborating through interactive, online TREC communication channels.  

Photos courtesy of Hajo Eicken