A Year as a PolarTrec Teacher
As the anniversary of traveling to Fairbanks, AK for training has approached and passed I can't help thinking of all I have done as a PolarTrec teacher the past year. To start with, I remember the joy of being accepted in December, 2013 and finding out that I would be traveling to Greenland to study climate change and pollinators. In February, 2014 I traveled to Fairbanks, AK to meet the other PolarTrec teachers and to undergo training. It was a very exciting and important week. Some of my favorite memories were feeling how cold AK is in the winter and meeting the PolarTrec staff and fellow teachers.
After returning to KY, I focused on three components.
1. Christine and I starting emailing weekly making plans about meals, travel, and updating me about the research
2. Planning public outreach
3. Learning to use the sat phone by myself
The last was definitely the hardest and I spent many nights frustrated by this phone.
As the end of the school year approached I starting carrying out many of my plans. To start, I starting explaining where I was going and what I was doing in my classroom. I had an Arctic day where students learned about the poles and created their postcards that I would take on my trip and re-send to them. I also had cold weather gear for students to try on.
Additionally, I had multiple outreach opportunities lined up before I left including...
- Informational talk at Joseph Beth before expedition
- Coffee drink created and named at Joseph Beth to bring awareness to my expedition
- Outreach opportunity at "Coffee Times, Coffee House"
- Became a coffee ambassador (I took pictures of me drinking coffee from "Coffee Times" while in Greenland and posted them to the "Coffee Times" Facebook page)
- I created several "Tools" to help such as: pens, business cards, coffee sleeves with a QR code, trifold boards, stamps, informational books, and mini science kits.
While In Greenland I continued to try to keep the public up to date:
- I wrote journals and uploaded them on the Polartrec website
- I mailed the postcards from my students back to their homes with official Greenland postage (I had to buy every stamp in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!)
- I held a PolarConnect event with fellow Middle School Science teachers in Fayette County
- I conducted mini experiments that my students had suggested (e.g. is there a bigger temperature different in the sun/shade here than in Greenland? How does the angle of the sun differ?)
Finally, when I arrived back to Kentucky the work did not stop:
- I created a children's book about my adventures in Greenland and presented it at Joseph Beth's "story Time" for the children's department.
- Had a TV interview after the expedition
- Had a news Article written up about my Greenlandic adventures.
- Completed lesson plans based off of the expedition. They will be available on the PolarTREC website soon!
Ecology Unit: Hand pollination, interdependence, mimicking research
Weather Unit: Discuss how air and water currents effect the polar regions
- Speaker at a Bee Keeping Conference (March 2015)
- And there is still more to come…
While I have explained what I have done and the research completed I have never talked much about what this experience has meant to me. I am so very grateful for the Whole PolarTrec Staff for giving me a chance and for Christine who was willing to work with me. This experience has been life changing.
First, the people who I have meet (fellow teachers, PolarTrec staff, and Christine) will be invaluable for the future. I have gained a strong network of exemplary teachers who I can talk and get ideas from. As a plus, these people are from all over the US. Second, the PolarTrec staff have and will always be willing to help me. This might be helping me remember my login into my PolarTrec account when it was just my name, or it might be helping to get Christine to KY so she can talk to my students. They still keep in touch and I feel and have felt their support through this whole opportunity. Third, Christine has been a huge influence on me and as a result my students. I knew what research was and I had performed some on my own, but Christine reminded me of how important it is to my students' growth. I was reminded that sometimes the most engaging lessons might be field work. Yes, it is harder and more time consuming, but my students are turning into little scientist that can spout out variables, experiment design, hypothesizes, and conclusions.
The second benefit of this experience was allowing me to feel like a scientist again. I was a science major in undergraduate and got my teaching degree as a masters. That being said, science was my first love. Since middle school I have loved being presented with an idea or problem and having to figure it out. I have loved the messiness and unknown science brings. Now, I get to share that experience with my students. This is why I teach, so that they can experience what I did at their age and have a chance to fall in love with the subject. Unfortunately, since I am in charge I don't often get the chance to do the down and dirty science. I would not trade what I do, but this expedition revitalized my love for science. It reminded me what science is and why I want to share the subject with my students.
Finally, this expedition gave me the opportunity to travel. I love to travel and explore new places. The more abstract the place the more exciting for me. I don't consider the year complete until I have traveled to at least once place I have never visited before. PolarTrec provided this. This may be more selfish, but I believe this goes hand in hand with my scientific desire to discover. Through PolarTrec I was able to travel to Fairbanks, AK in February, Goose Bay, Canada, and Kangerlussuag, Greenland. I am grateful to have visited and experienced three news places. I learned about their culture and lifestyle and will hold these travels dear to my heart. Even now, I will flip through pictures from the last year re-living the experiences they have provided.
PolarTrec has truly been an unique and irreplaceable gift. I can not say enough good things about PolarTrec and I am sure ever teacher would agree with me. I sincerely hope this program is provided funding again because it is so important to science teachers everywhere. Polartrec provides an experience to realize or be reminded of what science is and to carry it out in the classroom. This is the direction science needs to be taken and PolarTrec has been ahead of the program the whole time.