Polar Bears International

10/29/2012 4:07:33 PM

Terra Firma Countdown

By Kyle Schutt, Discovery Education

When was the last time you didn't touch land for a full day? How about five days consecutively? When that question was first presented to me, I wasn't sure how it was possible short of sailing the oceans abroad. But that's exactly the mission that a group of scientists and I began today.

My name is Kyle, and I'm in Churchill, Manitoba to work with our friends at Polar Bears International in creating a series of webcasts (they're free) for a worldwide audience. Some of the broadcasts will be specifically tailored to students as we learn about the impact of the climate on polar bears.

I am joined by Cecilia Bitz ((University of Washington, Associate Professor Atmospheric Sciences), Eric DeWeaver (National Science Foundation, Program Director), and John Whiteman(University of Wyoming, Graduate Studentfor Week Two of the Tundra Connections® season, focusing on The Climate Connection. Over the next five days we'll travel together on Tundra Buggies®—picture a school bus crossed with a monster truck—never touching the subarctic ground. In fact, we aim to have as little impact as possible on this place where the world's largest land carnivore roams.

What I'm most excited about is learning from each of these incredibly intelligent scientists. And I know it's going to be a great week to take part in the learning process because each of the panelists has expressed how excited he/she is to learn from the others in the group. What an incredible statement and model for our students. Isn't this the atmosphere in the classroom that we all strive to create?  

Your teachers for this week have incredible backgrounds. To introduce them I'll share their areas of expertise and some of their interests.

Eric's expertise is in climate change and its impact on sea ice. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to see polar bears in their native habitat. He's been talking about them and conducting research for years, but his work has mostly focused on "the other side of the screen"; in a warm office with very few physical dangers. Additionally, he enjoys outdoor activities like cycling, paddling and hang gliding.

Cecilia's area of focus is on sea ice, and she is excited to share her passion for climate science. This is her second trip to Churchill, and she is feeling honored to be invited back. She has a unique interest in combining her love of science with the arts. As an example, she has helped to bead an Anorak, a traditional arctic explorer's coat. The garment displays sea ice as the pulse of the arctic climate. 

John is our polar bear expert. He has extensive stories about his field research and time spent in Alaska and on an ice breaker ship. As you can imagine, he spends a fair amount of time in cold climates. When asked about this, he excitedly told me, "I like the cold. No, I mean, I really like the cold." And he means it. One day John hopes to own a dogsled team, which seems to be the only winter sport he hasn't taken up.

I hope you'll join our panel to learn more about impactful science going on in the tundra. After all, virtual learning opportunities like the live broadcasts this week have incredible value in igniting students' interest in STEM careers. While I wish I had opportunities to participate in learning experiences like these when I was young, I couldn't be more ecstatic to be a student this week as I work to keep you guys grounded with this important work.

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