October 14, 2012 Welcome Home and Ring-Nets Back In The Water!
What was the best part of your PolarTREC experience?
Since coming home I’ve been asked several times, “What was the best part of your PolarTREC experience?”, and I’ve been stumped to come up with an answer. I really haven’t been able to narrow it down to just one moment or learning experience. Every part of my Arctic research expedition journey, beginning with the supportive professional development we were part of at the PolarTREC orientation back in February, through the time spent in Barrow conducting research and working with my incredibly talented, tireless and good-humored expedition team of Dr. Carin Ashjian, Dr. Robert Campbell, Dr. Steve Okkonen and captains Bill Kopllin and Mike Fleming, has been absolutely amazing.
Sharing our Arctic research-based lesson activities with students and teachers in the Barrow and Point Hope schools was icing on the cake!
My response until now has been that I couldn’t pick just one “best part” moment because they are all woven together into a complex tapestry of one amazing science-based learning and life experience. However after arriving home and coming back to school for the last few weeks, clearly one part has begun to stand out. I can now say that the best part of my PolarTREC experience has been the impact that it has had on my own teaching and on everyone who has joined me on this journey, including my own students and community members.
Live with PolarConnect!
I was told that the excitement was palpable as our principal observed classrooms throughout the school while more than 500 students and staff joined us online with our live PolarConnect research discussion from Barrow on September 7th, 2012. What an amazing group experience! Across all content area's and grade levels in our school, students and teachers engaged across the miles with our research team in Barrow to learn about the oceanographic conditions in the Arctic. Community members also tuned into the discussion, including a group at the East Hampton Town Senior Citizens Nutrition Center!
Ring-Net In The Water!
Sunday, one week following my return from my PolarTREC Arctic research expedition, I was already suffering from a lack of daily research experiences and I found myself going out on our local bay, Three Mile Harbor with a plankton ring-net in hand. Just so you know, this was a first! I didn’t have a cod-end available so I jury-rigged one with a pair of nylons from my winter wardrobe and a plastic cup. It worked rather nicely and I ended up with a container filled with local plankton samples!
Best Science Class Ever!
At school the next day I replaced my regular Introduction to the Microscope Lab, where students would usually learn to use their microscopes by analyzing a letter “e”, and replaced it with an Introduction to the Microscope and Plankton Lab. This lab included zooplankton and phytoplankton identification activities using the plankton-tow samples I’d collected the day before, along with a computer-linked microscope and supplies borrowed from the Center for Microbial Oceanography. Students were over-the-top with enthusiasm. I’ve never seen that level of excitement and focus and been pulled in so many directions all at once during a classroom lab. They learned how to use the microscope all while discovering the amazing animals and plants that live in their own back yard harbor. Shouts rang through the classroom as they recognized some of the zooplankton as copepods based on photographs I had shown them from our Arctic expedition samples. One boy remarked that it was the best science class ever. How awesome is that!
First Day Back At School!
Finally, I want to describe my initial re-entry moment back into Springs School just two days after returning from my PolarTREC expedition. I arrived back at school for the first time to attend our middle school Open House in the late afternoon on Tuesday September 18th. As I juggled to carry a load of baleen, books and backpacks a student from one of the younger grades, who I didn’t know previously, swung the door open for me and added a loud, "Hi Mrs. Seff, welcome back! How was Alaska?" “It was great!” I replied, smiling because although I didn’t know him, he obviously knew me from our PolarTREC experience! He then asked what I was carrying and I explained that it was baleen from the mouth of a bowhead whale. I continued with, "the whale uses the baleen to filter feed.....", but before I could finish my sentence he practically exploded with excitement and shouted out, "Krill! They're a type of plankton that the whale eats!"
I paused and looked around…wondering if this too good to be true moment was a set-up…
I couldn't think of a better way to be welcomed home to Springs School!
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