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Arctic Oceanfront 8th Graders Do Sea Ice Science


After the on the sea ice field trip, the next day, we worked with over 70 Eben Hopson Middle School 8th graders at their school at in Utqiaġvik, Alaska with support of many national agencies and institutions. The indoor classroom sessions built on the four outdoor field station topics including Iñupiat Knowledge, Sea Ice Biology, Remote Sensing, and Snow, Sea Ice and Weather.

At Station 1, the students heard from Iñupiat elders, practiced wildlife observer, and community scientist to better understand the various Iñupiat terms for sea-ice how and how one can know the difference between safe ice and dangerous ice. They also learned how the agviq are distributed.

Billy Adams, North Slope Burrow Division of Wildlife Management, Assistant to the Director explaining ice features to students. Photo by Ben Evans

At Station 2, students further explored the tiny creatures and living things that live in the sea ice. They melted sections of core samples from the day before and used microscopes to make observations and further explore how animals and protists use/rely on sea ice as well as the role sea ice has in the Arctic food web with Kyle Dilliplaine, sea ice biologist and PhD student at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

At Station 3, students furthered their conversation from out on the sea ice about what is happening to the sea ice as a result of a changing climate. They explored how we observer sea ice from the air and higher in the sky with remote sensing techniques with sea ice scientist Josh Jones at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Melinda Webster a sea ice scientists at University of Washington.

At Station 4, the various geographic scales where explored through learning about Arctic buoys, ocean scale sea ice movement, and how the data from the buoys inform our understanding of global climate change. Ignatius Rigor, the Director of the International Arctic Buoy Programme at the University of Washington led this station with me, Sarah Johnson, an Arctic outreach educator, at Wild Rose Education.


We hope this multi-day learning opportunity for the students was memorable and impactful. This was the first time after a 4 year hiatus for this collaborative effort between scientists, science logistical support staff, teachers, and students.


Talking with the teachers and school leaders I learned that students in Utqiaġvik, Alaska almost never have field trip opportunities as there are not any roads to anywhere out of Barrow, one has to fly to go anywhere. While educators in the Lower 48 have barriers of getting buses and drivers for field trips; teachers in rural remote Alaska do not have roads. Also I am curious to know also how often they have special guest educators visit their schools. We did hear stories of a permafrost science team bringing their outreach activities to the remote North Slope villages school via small prop plane in the past couple months. Perhaps the sea ice field trip will go out 'on the road' sometime in the future... or is it 'on the flight path'?


It was neat to witness the integration of Iñupiat Knowledge into the field trip. I've learned that the North Slope Borough is committed to supporting Iñupiat-centered orientation in all areas of instruction. As the 8th grade sea ice science experience evolves and develops in the coming years it will be neat to see how it integrates even more Iñupiaq Education strategies and practices.




*Most Photos by Ben Evans



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