Wednesday, August 6, 2008

PS 45-108: Bridging the gap between real-world polar science and the classroom

Claudia V. Garcia1, William H. Robertson1, Ileana De Cardenas2, Erik Erwin3, Marisa Negrete4, Sergio Rodriguez1, Craig E. Tweedie1, and Vanessa L. Lougheed1. (1) The University of Texas at El Paso, (2) The University of Miami, (3) University of Colorado at Boulder, (4) Bradley Elementary


As part of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of Texas at El Paso has designed a field research program titled International Polar Year – Research and Education Opportunities in Antarctica for Minorities (IPY-ROAM). The goals of this program were to raise diversity in the polar sciences and increase the understanding of the Polar Regions by offering undergraduate students, graduate students, and teachers the opportunity to conduct original field base research in Antarctica. Twenty-eight participants were selected and required to complete a semester online course in Antarctic Systems and develop a research project in Antarctica with in the areas of education and outreach, terrestrial and aquatic ecology, geophysics, and policy. The overarching purpose of the Education and Outreach group is to instill the idea of environmental stewardship and the impact of individuals on local and global issues. The goal of the education and outreach team was to create instructional materials that simulate investigations performed by scientists, as well as a gallery of photographs and educational videos that illustrate the experience of performing research in Antarctica. Members of this team worked collaboratively with scientist and participated in one of the four research groups where they were responsible of observing field techniques, aid in their data collection, and acquire photographs and videos of their fieldwork.


The outcomes from of this project include inquiry-based K-12 lesson plans in the areas of terrestrial and aquatic ecology, geophysics, and ecotourism. Each lesson plan has a hands-on component and assists students in understanding the habits of mind of scientist. To enhance the educational materials, a glossary of terms was also developed which includes a description of the wildlife and geological features of this region, the research sites, scientific field equipment, and the diverse scientific disciplines involved. Other products created include a photo gallery for each area of research, as well as a video bank with general and instructional movies. Products developed by the education and outreach team are archived in the IPY-ROAM program's website ( and can be downloaded by teachers and the community in general. Tools such as these can provide the basis for creating a love of science, increase an understanding of Antarctica, and instill a sense of responsibility toward global issues. Further plans for this student lead project include evaluating the effectiveness of the educational materials.