Summer Ends, Summer Begins as NSF Sends Teachers to the Poles
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Four teachers have returned from the Arctic, and ten more are preparing to go to the Antarctic as part of the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic/Antarctic (TEA) program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Through the program, elementary and secondary school teachers participate in ongoing field research with NSF-funded scientists, and then bring back what they have learned to share with students and other teachers.
"What better way is there to teach through life experience than with the experience of a lifetime," said Tim Conner, a teacher from Chenango Forks Central School, Chenango Forks, New York, and TEArctic program participant.
"TEA enriches the classroom for both teachers and students alike," said Wayne Sukow, program manager for the NSF's education and human resources directorate. "We show our students that science is not just a school subject, but something that is alive and resonates with relevance for their lives and their community."
This past summer, four teachers from around the country worked with researchers in the Arctic. Conner assisted archaeologists in Deering, Alaska as they excavated the remains of a 1,000-year-old Ipuitak village. Myrtle Brijbasi, from Suitland High School in Forestville, Maryland, studied the effects of oil contamination on river otters. Tim Buckley of Barrow High School in Barrow, Alaska, spent time aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Polar Sea, as he worked with scientists studying chemical and biological properties of the Arctic pack ice. Donald Rogers, from Rogers High School in Spokane, Washington, helped study the influence of Arctic tundra on the atmosphere.
While working in the field, each teacher posted updates of their journals to the TEA website so their students could follow along.
As the summer season ends in the Arctic, things are getting underway for the beginning of the austral summer research season in the Antarctic. This year, ten teachers will participate in scientific efforts at research stations across the continent, including the South Pole and aboard the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer. From the ice, teachers can share stories of their Antarctic adventures, both scientific and personal, with their students through the Internet.
Sue Bowman, a new TEAntarctic participant from Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, is busy getting ready for her trip to the South Pole this January. As she teaches her own students about polar astronomy, she works with other teachers in the Lebanon School District so that their students can also take part in the experience.
"Our older students are learning computer programs to conduct studies that will mirror my work at the Pole, while the younger groups are learning all about the Antarctic environment and life on the ice," said Bowman.
With consultation from past participants, and the willing support of the school's administration, Lebanon High School is tooling up their curriculum and their computers to keep track of Bowman's expedition to Antarctica.
"I can't believe the opportunities that TEA has brought to the kids in our school district as a result of this trip," said Bowman, "and I haven't even left yet."
-NSF-Editors: For a complete list of all the participants, past and present, in the TEA program, see: http://www.glacier.rice.edu/
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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