The last email I received from Janet Warburton encouraged me to post a final journal entry to let folks know that I made it home safely and to wrap of the story of my research trip. She said, "Just let folks know what you learned, how you feel about the experience, and what your plans are now." The word that bothered me most was "final" so I have been putting the task off. Labor Day Weekend, the official end of summer break around here, has come and gone, so I guess it is finally time to put summer to bed.
I got home safely. I immediately tried to plunge back into the activities of being a responsible homeowner: mowing, pruning, scrubbing, dusting, paying bills and cleaning out the "office" I keep in my car. My classroom is organized, sort of. My wardrobe is prioritized toward professionalism. I've read some heavy books on latest brain research, climate change, and assessment to guide instruction. I've written some grants. I‘ve read and responded to NOAA's "Next Generation Strategic Plan." I have *not *stopped wishing I was back on some remote beach in Alaska with the research team!
I still feel off-center here in the real world: traffic is too fast; the neighborhood is too loud; it has only rained 6 of the last 21 days! I feel too rested, too dried out, and so privileged to have been part of the Alaska Climate Variation '09 research expedition.
I learned that science in the field is thrilling in small ways, unpredictable, and sometimes not what you expect, but never truly disappointing. I learned that the sediment record of 2000 years can be found in two meters or less of a lake bottom core. I learned that research is not a sure thing and that is what can make it an adventure. Neither success nor failure is inevitable. Sometimes success just looks different than you expected it to. Creative thinking and diligence are often rewarded and sometimes the satisfaction that you were creative and diligent is the only reward you get.
My plans are to share as much of what I saw, did and learned with my students as possible. I plan to seek wider audiences than just my students and colleagues at school by taking my message to the community through enrichment presentations, hopefully through the library system. I plan to share what I have learned with other science teachers at future conferences. I plan to stay in touch with many of the wonderful people I have met through this experience.
My PolarTREC experience has provided me with the information to have some very satisfying conversations with friends here at home. Some of these folks are climate change skeptics who started out as polite listeners and ended up as an engaged audience. That is very satisfying, not because I changed their minds, but because I was able to get them to consider new ideas. Because I was working with sediment cores earlier this summer, I was welcomed as I stood around and watched a team core our schoolyard to see if the soil would support the weight of a remodeled school building. The head engineer/geologist actually got interested enough to show me in detail what they found in the each 15 foot sample taken from 5 locations around the school yard. He let me examine the equipment they were using, and then explained the geologic history of our site to me as revealed by the cores they pulled up. Now, how cool is that!?
How do I feel and what did I learn? Well folks, my head is too full still for me to truly know just how much I learned! What I can tell you is that I feel honored and grateful to have been a part of PolarTREC and the research carried on by the team from Northern Arizona University. I send special gratitude to Janet, Kristin, Ronnie, Zeb, Robbie and Roy for their support from the PolarTREC and Polar Field Services end. I send heartfelt thanks and undying friendship to Heidi, Caleb, Megan and Darrell for including me so unselfishly in their expedition.
This may be my final blog entry, but I have a feeling that the experience is far from over!