Keep on TREC-ing

May 19, 2010
By Marcy Davis

Pictured outside the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the 2010 PolarTREC teachers and alumni (left to right), Jeff Peneston (Icebreaker Oden-2008), Jim Pottinger, Josh Dugat, Cheryl Forster, Chantelle Rose, Mike Lampert, Keri Rodgers, Karl Horeis, Tina Sander, Michele Cross (McMurdo Station-2009), Craig Beals (Summit-2008), Anne Marie Wotkyns, Bill Schmoker, Lesley Urasky, and Claude Larson. Unless otherwise noted, photos by Kristin Timm, Arctic Consortium of the United States, for PolarTREC

It’s that time of year again! Janet Warburton and Kristin Timm of the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) are preparing K-12 educators from across the United States for upcoming field experiences in the Arctic and Antarctic.  Twelve teachers who spent a week in Fairbanks, Alaska, in April for the PolarTREC Orientation and ShareFair, an intensive week-long introduction to the professional development experience.

PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), now in its fourth year (and with a recent NSF funding renewal through December of 2013), is a professional development program for K-12 educators focused on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Through teacher-researcher collaborations and hands-on field experiences, teachers become an essential bridge between cutting-edge polar science and the public. By working closely with selected PolarTREC research teams through application review and teacher interviews, researchers and teachers are matched across a wide range of scientific disciplines to ensure that teachers’ interests are aligned with science project goals. After much training and preparation, teachers spend 2-6 weeks in the field with their research team. During their time out, teachers share their experiences through webinars, multimedia journals, and bulletin boards on PolarTREC’s interactive Web site.

Ann Harding and Rachael Orben prepare to take blood samples of captured birds, Kap Hoegh, Greenland. Photo by Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly (PolarTREC 2007), Courtesy of ARCUS

PolarTREC’s mission includes increasing teachers’ knowledge of polar science along with their ability to teach pertinent science concepts. The program allows teachers to improve their instruction by participating in a new and exciting research experience, exposing them to new ideas and incorporating technology both in and out of the field. Teachers also develop new curricula, which is disseminated through the PolarTREC site. PolarTREC wants their teachers to inspire students to become more aware of the Polar Regions and explore opportunities to further their education and explore occupations in STEM areas.

During the PolarTREC orientation teachers learned background science content, how to communicate successfully from the field, and how to develop polar science education and outreach plans and ideas. Hands-on breakout sessions include digital photography, journaling methods, using educational technologies, and bringing science into the classroom. PolarTREC teacher and research alumni as well as representatives from CH2M HILL Polar Services (CPS) were also on hand in-person and virtually to share experiences and address teacher questions and expectations.

Following a presentation from Roy Stehle of SRI International (part of CPS), teacher Anne Marie Wotkyns practiced using the satellite phone by calling home from the Westmark Hotel parking lot. Wotkyns will work with scientists on the Icebreaker Oden in November.

PolarTREC Alumni, Craig Beals (Summit-2008), offers advice to the new group of teachers. Three PolarTREC alumni were on hand during orientation to share information and lessons learned about their field experience, maintaining collaborations with the research team, and taking PolarTREC back to the classroom.

Matt Irinaga of Polar Field Services (part of CPS) explains the science of cold weather dressing: layer, layer, layer! Photo: Robbie Score

We’ll be checking in on PolarTREC teachers during their field experiences – stay tuned! 

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Bridge your Science to the Public with a PolarTREC Teacher!

August 13, 2009
By Kristin Timm
Despite language differences, PolarTREC Teacher Tim Martin works with an international research team at Lake El’gygytgyn in Northeast Siberia. All photos courtesy ARCUS

Despite language differences, PolarTREC Teacher Tim Martin works with an international research team at Lake El’gygytgyn in Northeast Siberia. All photos courtesy ARCUS

PolarTREC – Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating, a project of the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. funded by the National Science Foundation – matches K-12 teachers with polar researchers to participate in polar research, as a pathway to improve science education. The program integrates research and education to produce long-term teacher-researcher collaborations, improved teacher content knowledge and instructional practices, and broad public interest and engagement in polar science.

Through PolarTREC, primarily K-12 teachers spend two to six weeks in the Arctic or Antarctic, working as an active and integral part of the science team. While in the field, teachers and researchers communicate extensively with students across the globe, using a variety of tools including online journals, forums, and interactive webinars that often reach hundreds of students at a time. Researchers report that the outreach activities provided through PolarTREC help bridge their science and the public and makes broader impacts fun, rewarding, and easy.

PolarTREC Teacher, Tom Harten, a.k.a. the “Murre-minator,” prepares for another day’s work marking sea birds in the Pribilof Islands.

PolarTREC Teacher, Tom Harten, a.k.a. the “Murre-minator,” prepares for another day’s work marking sea birds in the Pribilof Islands.

“I have a much stronger belief in the work I do now that I know that there are people out there who value my work,” one researcher said after participating in PolarTREC. “The experience I gained in working with both PolarTREC and their top-notch teachers taught me how to communicate my research better and even how to more effectively plan my research program so that it can be embedded into larger interdisciplinary problems.” According to initial evaluation data, other PolarTREC researchers reflected similar satisfaction with their participation in the program. Many also added that both their research and the scientific process benefit from including a teacher on their team. The need to explain their research and “boil it down to the raw essence” helped the research teams see how their work fits into a “bigger world picture” and how they can present their science effectively to a broad audience.

PolarTREC Teacher Simone Welch works with researchers onboard the USCGC Healy slicing and preparing ice cores for analysis back in the lab.

PolarTREC Teacher Simone Welch works with researchers slicing and preparing ice cores for analysis back in the lab.

PolarTREC applicants (teachers and researchers) are thoroughly reviewed by a selection committee of their peers, and initial matches are based on similar science interests. Researchers selected to participate in PolarTREC receive about eight best match teacher applications, have the opportunity to interview three of them, and then make the final selection. Selected teachers participate in an intensive orientation and are trained extensively prior to the field season. Working with their researchers before the field season, teachers also acquire any needed equipment training, build their science knowledge, and get to know the team they will be working with. After the field season, teachers and researchers have sustained their relationships through co-presenting at scientific meetings and to schools and community groups, participating in data workshops, jointly creating classroom lesson plans, and writing proposals for future work together.

Working with a team of archaeologists and undergraduate students in Finland, PolarTREC Teacher Michael Wing clears vegetation at the Hiidenkangas Site.

Working with a team of archaeologists and undergraduate students in Finland, PolarTREC Teacher Michael Wing clears vegetation at the Hiidenkangas Site.

Apply Now!

PolarTREC is currently accepting applications from researchers for the fourth year of teacher research experiences. Researchers are invited to submit an application to host a PolarTREC teacher in the 2010 Arctic and/or the 2010/2011 Antarctic field seasons. More information and application forms are available at: http://www.polartrec.com.

Funding is pending for PolarTREC during the 2010 Arctic field season and the 2010-2011 Antarctic field season. ARCUS will keep researcher applicants informed of our funding status. If funding is secured, final matches should be made in December 2009 or January 2010.  

For More Information:

A one-hour informational webinar for researchers interested in hosting a PolarTREC teacher on their polar research project will be held on 18 August 2009 at 10:00 am ADT (8:00 am HST, 11:00 am PDT, 12:00 am MDT, 1:00 pm CDT, 2:00 pm EDT). Please register for the event at: http://www.polartrec.com/join/informational-webinar/form by 17 August 2009.

Questions? Please contact info@polartrec.com or call 907-474-1600.