Antarctica Blog Connects Students With Science

WASHINGTON — Con­nect­ing sci­en­tists to ele­men­tary and high school stu­dents world­wide was one of many accom­plish­ments dur­ing last year’s Oper­a­tion Deep Freeze, the military’s sup­port of Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion research in Antarc­ti­ca.

In 2010, Air Force Lt. Col. Ed “Hertz” Vaugh­an spent 50 days as com­man­der of McMur­do Detach­ment 1 and deputy com­man­der of the 13th Air Expe­di­tionary Group, Joint Task Force Sup­port Forces Antarc­ti­ca. There, he braved tem­per­a­tures that often dipped below minus 20 degrees Fahren­heit to sup­port the U.S. Antarc­tic Pro­gram, the Nation­al Sci­ence Foundation’s sci­ence mis­sion in Antarc­ti­ca.

Dur­ing his time in Antarc­ti­ca he shared his expe­ri­ences, “Dis­patch­es from Antarc­ti­ca,” through the Defense Media Activity’s blog, “Armed with Sci­ence: Research and Appli­ca­tions for the Mod­ern Mil­i­tary,” from Sept. 27 to Nov. 1.

In Vaughan’s sec­ond blog post Oct. 15, he shared his expe­ri­ence of arriv­ing in Antarc­ti­ca by plane: “Bun­dled and stiff, lips stuck-dried to smil­ing teeth, we wad­dled from the air­plane to Ivan the Ter­ra Bus. Again we were swad­dled. Con­tact frost from air­plane breath grew ice frac­tals on the inside of frozen win­dows obscur­ing the 35 minute ride to … McMur­do Sta­tion.”

John Ohab, a new tech­nol­o­gy strate­gist who coor­di­nat­ed this series for the Defense Depart­ment, shared the posts with the Depart­ment of Defense Edu­ca­tion Activ­i­ty and an ele­men­tary school in Mary­land.

One of Ohab’s goals for this series, he said, was to pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for stu­dents and teach­ers to con­nect with Vaugh­an dur­ing his deploy­ment to Antarc­ti­ca. Through con­tacts with DoDEA and oth­er schools, he received ques­tions from sci­ence teach­ers in advance and pro­vid­ed them to Vaugh­an.

Vaughan’s respons­es will be fea­tured in three posts on Armed with Sci­ence this month. Ques­tions sub­mit­ted by Arnold Ele­men­tary School in Arnold, Md., will be fea­tured tomor­row. Ques­tions from DoDEA stu­dents will be fea­tured Jan. 11 and 14.

“Being a bit of a sci­ence fanat­ic, I love expos­ing my stu­dents to any­thing unique in sci­ence,” said Jen­nifer Watkins, fourth-grade teacher at DoDEA’s Osan Amer­i­can Ele­men­tary School in Osan, South Korea. She added that DoDEA offi­cials fre­quent­ly share such oppor­tu­ni­ties with sci­ence teach­ers with­in the Defense Depart­ment school sys­tem.

“I usu­al­ly read through them and pick activ­i­ties that are age-appro­pri­ate or ones I feel will enhance sci­ence learn­ing for my stu­dents,” Watkins said. “To me, it is just anoth­er avenue that lets oth­ers know how impor­tant sci­ence is in our every­day life. I teach my stu­dents that most of what they have now would not be pos­si­ble with­out sci­ence.”

Watkins said pri­or to “Dis­patch­es from Antarc­ti­ca,” she had nev­er heard of the Defense Media Activity’s sci­ence-relat­ed blog­ging plat­form. Her stu­dents were very excit­ed about the project, she added, and pleased to be a part of the learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty and the “big take­away” from this type of exchange.

Lau­rie Arens­dorf, who teach­es fifth graders at Kinser Ele­men­tary School in Oki­nawa, Japan, said she always is look­ing for ways to incor­po­rate the tech­nol­o­gy into the over­all DoDEA stan­dards. She added that the tim­ing of “Dis­patch­es from Antarc­ti­ca” coin­cid­ed well with exper­i­ments her stu­dents were con­duct­ing in the class­room.

“We had learned how sci­en­tists cre­ate exper­i­ments and vari­ables that might impact the results,” she said. “The activ­i­ty led quite nice­ly into the work that Oper­a­tion Deep Freeze does each day. Some of the stu­dents’ ques­tions rep­re­sent­ed the work we had done in class and their inter­est in how sci­en­tists in Antarc­ti­ca oper­ate.”

The stu­dents were sur­prised to learn that ser­vice mem­bers are sta­tioned in Antarc­ti­ca, she said. “They were amazed to learn that mil­i­tary mem­bers just like their mom and dad are sta­tioned down in Antarc­ti­ca,” she added.

Watkins said the learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty pro­vid­ed for tech­nol­o­gy exchange in the class­room. “This was the first time I have done this type of exchange with a class before,” she said. “My stu­dents [and I] learn more about mys­te­ri­ous Antarc­ti­ca,” she added. “They feel impor­tant, because their ques­tions were answered by some­one who is there doing the research, and they gen­er­ate more ques­tions and dig a bit deep­er.

“We did a class dis­cus­sion about Antarc­ti­ca, as we had been work­ing on map skills in social stud­ies and had dis­cussed Antarc­ti­ca already,” she con­tin­ued. “Then the stu­dents just called out ques­tions. I wrote their ques­tions, along with their name, on the board.”

Arens­dorf added that pro­grams like Armed with Sci­ence expand the realm of pos­si­bil­i­ty for her stu­dents.

“Pro­grams such as those avail­able through Armed with Sci­ence give our stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ize there is more to the world than what resides inside the four walls of a class­room,” she said. “I con­sid­er myself so for­tu­nate to be able to teach in a time where we can offer these oppor­tu­ni­ties to our stu­dents.”

She added that “Dis­patch­es from Antarc­ti­ca” helped to share the impor­tant work car­ried out by Defense Depart­ment sci­en­tists around the world, and that shar­ing their work high­lights the career poten­tial in this demand­ing, but reward­ing career field.

“The stu­dents always enjoy doing sci­ence exper­i­ments, but in fifth grade they don’t always real­ize the career oppor­tu­ni­ties that could extend from things they enjoy in a class­room,” she explained. “This activ­i­ty opened their eyes to such things, and I think that some of their ques­tions reflect­ed an inter­est in learn­ing more about these types of careers.” For exam­ple, one of the ques­tions sub­mit­ted to Vaugh­an asked what advan­tages exist for sci­en­tists in Antarc­ti­ca.

“Aside from the cold,” Vaugh­an answered, “Antarc­ti­ca has vast areas untouched and unspoiled by human activ­i­ty. Sci­ence that requires research in large areas of pris­tine land­scape may find unique advan­tages here. The South Pole offers a unique van­tage point for space obser­va­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly with 24/7 dark­ness half the year.

“There are many species only found in Antarc­ti­ca,” he con­tin­ued. “In some cas­es, the food chains of these species have remained con­stant for many years, per­mit­ting sci­en­tists to com­pare such ecosys­tems with oth­er more dis­tressed sys­tems around the globe. There are atmos­pher­ic qual­i­ties in Antarc­ti­ca, such as the ozone hole, which make this a prime spot to research effects in the low­er and upper atmos­phere.”

“Very thick areas of ice accu­mu­lat­ed over cen­turies, such as the 10,000 feet deep ice around the South Pole, pro­vide glimpses back in time, like the rings on a tree,” Vaugh­an added. Atmos­pher­ic phe­nom­e­na from hun­dreds, even thou­sands, of years ago leave chem­i­cal traces on the sur­face of the ice. As the sea­sons and years bury old ice with new, a record remains. Sci­en­tists drill for cores of these records and can cor­re­late data with oth­er sources to gain infor­ma­tion on cli­mate change activ­i­ty over time.

“Addi­tion­al­ly,” he wrote, “the ice and snow which cov­ers most of the land area pro­vide a visu­al advan­tage for sci­en­tists search­ing for mete­orites. In some places, mete­orites are eas­i­er to find here as they tend to stand out from the sur­round­ing white ter­rain. A cur­so­ry exam­i­na­tion of the Nation­al Sci­ence Foundation’s office of polar program’s web­site gives even more exam­ples as to why this is a one of kind place yield­ing invalu­able sci­ence.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →