Sunday, December 12, 2010

Final Project:: Global Climate Change in Alaska and the Arctic

Objectives for my final project are
  1. Create a visual, self-guided interactive display using the Magic Planet
 2. Use topics that are engaging and relevant to students as well as community members
 3. Show the direct impacts and extent of changes in sea ice and snow cover in the Arctic 
 4.  Encourage participants to think about strategies for changes that are happening now or may happen in the future.

Goals and Rationale 
 The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska recently acquired a Magic Planet display globe for educational presentations at the center.  My goal is to make an interactive display that can be used as:
·         A walk-in activity for community members
·          A self-guided display for students when they stay overnight at the center
·         A display for educational presentations that uses real data
·         An interactive station for students when participating in the Earth mission in our simulated spacecraft.

Global climate change is relevant to all of us, especially those living in the furthest north latitudes.  There is a lot of data out there, including statistics about the temperature rise per year, the square miles of change in the ice pack, rates of glacial retreats and associated volumes, and much more.  However, these numbers are hard to comprehend to scientists in the field, so imagine how abstract they are to the average citizen!  By putting some of the data on the display globe in a visual format, the data can be more easily comprehended.  The data also becomes “real” when you see it and can relate it to something you know, such as when it is displayed on a map.  Changes over time can be seen and they become much more meaningful that the numbers alone. 

Our center currently does not have any walk- in displays.  We schedule programs for school and other groups, but do not have any activities for individuals or family groups.  This project will start to fill that niche and at the same time provide relevant information to visitors to the center.

Project Description

Main Screen choices
There will be three icons on the main touch screen to choose from:
1.       The Land and the Ice
2.       The Weather
3.      The Oceans
Under each choice, the user will be able to access time –lapse maps, interactive, and short video clips as described below.  This format will allow additional icons and materials to be easily added to the display.

The  Magic Planet is designed to be an interactive display. I plan on collaborating with our IT employee as I will need help with the process of downloading files in the correct format for display on the Magic Planet.

I. The Land and the Ice

Photo credit:
The user will choose from the following three options.

1. Sea Ice Map a link that has maps of polar sea ice over time.  The maps can be input through Story Teller software on the Magic Planet and displayed on the globe.  Users will be able to scroll through temporal data.

   2. The Cryosphere Today a website with daily ice pack maps that can be loaded onto and displayed on the Magic Planet globe.
 3. Ice Packs of the Past which has maps of ice coverage over Alaska during the last ice age.  I will have to figure out how to download these files in a format that the Magic Planet can display.

 4. Cultural Connections:  a video from Teachers Domain,  Hunters Navigate the Warming Climate, which discusses how hunting on the ice is changing as the ice changes.

  II. The Ocean
Clam Gulch, AK. (Photo by K. East)
 The user will choose from the following four options:

 1. Global Sea Temperatures with maps of sea temperatures from 2001 to 2010.  Participants will be able to scroll through and see how the temperatures change over time.
  2. What happens if the ice melts? This is the interactive that shows what may happen to shorelines as the ice melts.

3.  Oceans and Winds which will pull up maps from  Earth Observatory showing ocean and wind currents.

4. Cultural Connections:  Saving Shismaref: The high price of global warming.  This video clip shows the damage occurring in Shismaref and some of the options that residents are forced to choose from.

 III. The Weather
Contrail cloud over Kenai, AK (Photo by K. East)
  The following four options will be available to choose from:
     1. Land Temperatures and how they are changing.  The land temperature maps from Earth Observatory will be displayed so that the user can scroll through available maps over time and see how temperatures are changing.

      2. El Nino and La Nina These earth observatory maps show the effects of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino and La Nina, and the changes in annual precipitation.  The changes over time can be observed.

      3. What's the weather today?  The Magic Planet software can link up to the internet and display near  real time data (I believe it's within the last 4 hours).  I don't know the link - it's on the Magic Planet menu at work:)

     4. Cultural Connection: Unpredictability This video discusses Arctic Climate Perspectives and how the changing climate is affecting the people of Barrow.  The can not depend on old knowledge as the weather and climate rapidly change.

I am looking forward to implementing this display. I am also going to implement blogging as part of a class I am working on for the school district, and possibly as part of our summer camp.  Thanks to Clay and all the participants with their great feedback for making this an awesome course!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Climate, Ice, Terrestrial Ice, and Alaskan Indigenous Cultures….

How appropriate that we are studying ice as I am freezing in my living room! (Welcome winter!)

In the summer of 1982, I took a trip to Glacier Bay, Alaska.  This glacier (I think it is the Muir Glacier) was a tidewater glacier.

Tidewater Glacier August 1982 (Photo by K. East)

Visiting the same place 20 years later, the beach was entirely exposed.  The glacier had retreated up the valley.  I would not have recognized it as the same place.  In geologic time, this is a mere blip….an observation of how quickly things can change.   

From Documenting Glacial Change

 The side by side photos of several Alaska's glacier on this interactive website  show the changes that have occurred in recent time.  A very concrete way to illustrate changes in our environment on a human time scale.

A few years ago I acquired and read the read the book The Earth is Faster Now: Indigenous Observations of Arctic Environmental Change. The title comes from a statement by an Alaska Native, Mabel Toolie who was referring to how the weather is changing.  The old ways of predicting the weather are no longer valid. Her explanation was that the rapidly changing weather was due to the earth moving faster. Shameless plug: great book  discussing climate change and the impact on Indigenous Arctic cultures. 

A tundra lake in Denali National Park (photo by K. East)

Losing Permafrost taught me about the effects of melting permafrost on lakes.  This is one of those effects that is counter-intuitive.  When I thought of melting permafrost,  it included visions of “drunken trees”, buildings falling of their foundations, and lots of mucky, watery soil.  These effects are certainly indications of melting permafrost.  The surprising part is that melting permafrost can drain lakes! When the ground ice melts, it makes a path for surface water to drain.  The Inuit speaker in Melting Permafrost tells about the lake draining and taking all the freshwater fish with it.  Dramatic changes like this certainly has an impact on the way of life of people in the area, as much as it has an impact on the ecosystem.

In studying global warming, I was aware of the ups and downs in global temperatures that occur as part of the natural cycle on earth.  I was also aware that the current change is happening faster, and many people “blame” humans for causing a faster change in temperature and thus in climate.  What I didn’t realize was that there  have been rapid changes in the past.  These changes can occur on even a yearly basis as described in the Melting Permafrost video. It is eye-opening to hear the discussion of abrupt change.  Rapid climate changes occurred after last ice age on a scale of decades rather than a scale of thousands of years! Scientists do not understand the threshold or trigger mechanism that may cause these abrupt changes; nor when it may happen.  This fact adds increases the level of concern we need to have over impending climatic changes, whether caused by humans or other factors. 

An interesting example of rapid climate change was recently discovered in  Snowmass, CO. While digging an expansion for the town reservoir, preserved bones of both mastodons and mammoths were unearthed.
The animals lived in different climates, but were both found here. One explanation for finding them together has to do with rapid climate change.  They may have been trapped in an environment that was not conducive to either species as the climate and the land around them changed.

Kathy and Oreo near Chugiak, AK
h yeah, one more interesting thing!  I never thought about ice being a barrier to evaporation. Duh!  This component of the whole feedback loop for warming temperatures, reflection and absorption of solar radiation, evaporation and weather changes is an important step.  The thermodynamic and albedo properties of ice are the ones we (or me!) most often think of.

As with every week, there is so much material that can be incorporated into the classroom.   I really like the website showing earth's water and snowflake snowflake distribution.  This would be a great interactive source for students to explore, followed by a graphing activity where they can create a visual representation of the data.  It would also be interesting for the students to look at the portion of the world’s water and snow found in Alaska.  This would be a good activity across science, geography, and math.

Methane in frozen lake

Dr. Katey Walker explains the consequences of melting permafrost and the implications of methane in the atmosphere.  What a great way to hook kids – although you would have to issue a cautionary statement of “do not try this at home!” This is an awesome way to keep the student’s interest and explain the impacts of melting permafrost.

If the relevance of melting ice and permafrost is not already obvious to students and community members, it soon will be.  Whether you live where the coastline may dramatically change
or inland where the ground is becoming unstable.

Perhaps community members and students could become involved in measuring permafrost changes and reporting data to the Frozen Ground Data Center. Tunnel Man Episode 3 shows how to make a frost tube and how it works.  I also like how they include thermodynamics into the explanation (and you can sing along!)

3 Colleagues  

Alicia Weaver and the cryosphere: How exciting that you can directly apply some of these concepts with your students!  Ice and temperature affect their lives daily, unlike in some communities where students are inside all the time.  I agree with the statement about mother earth being in “climate crisis.”

 Eric Ellefson on changing climate: I had to go read the article from Scientific American.  Interesting concept!  Not sure how practical, but at least people are thinking about how to cut down on green house gasses.  Thanks for sharing!

Cheryl Williams on sea ice: Great information about monitoring with the frost tube.  I think that would be a very engaging activity with students.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Button up: This week we visit the cryosphere!

Button up: This week we visit the cryosphere!  

How ironic that one of the important pieces of the global warming puzzle is the cryosphere!  I first learned that term in a class last summer.  Until then, I had never thought about earth’s icy caches as being such a vital part of our climate and more specifically of climate change.  

Children in Pt. Hope, AK (Photo by K. East)

Water, water everywhere….
Ice is a neat substance. The only solid that takes up more space than it does in a liquid form.  The common  idea is that as glaciers and icecaps melt, the sea level will rise.  It will contribute to sea level  rise, but I had not thought about the volume.  The salinity and density of water plays an important role in the volume and thus in the amount of sea level rise.  As with most things in nature, nothing is as simple as it seems!

Sea Ice off Pt. Hope, AK (Photo by K. East)

Water can make an awesome inquiry lab in and of itself.  Students of all ages can experiment with  density, surface tension, volume changes between states, and dissolution of solids (like salt) in water.

I did not know about the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) before reading this week’s material. 
I was struck by the statement about Mother Earth:

”Mother Earth is no longer in a period of climate change, but in climate crisis. We therefore insist on an immediate end to the destruction and desecration of the elements of life.

Indigenous Peoples have a vital role in defending and healing Mother Earth. The future of
Indigenous Peoples lies in the wisdom of our elders, the restoration of the sacred position of
women, the youth of today and in the generations of tomorrow.”

This really sums up the extreme importance of climate change on indigenous peoples and their way of life.  I particularly like the statement about climate crisis.  The earth has undergone climate change in the past, but not under the same circumstances or as quickly as it is now.  “Climate crisis” seems a very appropriate way to describe the state of our climate. 

I have experience the impacts of permafrost.  My back door closes fine in the summer, but in the winter as the ground freezes, the door gets harder and harder to close as the floor rises on top of the expanding soil volume.   

I knew there was a section of Colorado that has permafrost, but I had no idea that 55% of the northern hemisphere is permafrost.  Wow – it is hard to imagine the impact on buildings, roads, and ecosystems if and when it melts!
Ice on the Kenai River (Photo by K. East)

The NASA satellite data is spectacular.  I will be able to use it with our Magic Planet display and in conjunction with our global warming curriculum.  It is very interesting to compare the satellite data with the oral and written records of Arctic people.  Both views are very important and can contribute to our overall understanding of the cryosphere.  This is a great way for students to explore how different points of view, one close up and one from space, contribute to the “big picture.”  

The ICE sat website provides some great explanations about how the satellites collect data and how that data is analyzed. This is a good one to use for middle and high school.

The ICC is very committed to helping to fix the problem and not just complain about it.  They have very specific suggestions on topics such as how to decrease pollution and how indigenous people can become involved in the process.  This can be a resource for students to look at what they can do to be a part of the climate change solution.

The ICC stated:
"We offer to share with humanity our Traditional Knowledge, innovations, and practices
relevant to climate change, provided our fundamental rights as intergenerational
guardians of this knowledge are fully recognized and respected. We reiterate the urgent
need for collective action. "

Solar Reflections on the Kenai City Beach (Photo by K. East)
The interactive on albedo will be great for students to explore that concept.  We talk about albedo a lot in astronomy also, and this is a good way for students to get a feel for what it is.  I really like using interactives for several reasons.  Students can go at their own pace, moving ahead when they are ready.  They are involved and have to participate, unlike class discussions or reading where you can sneak by and not really participate.  It’s kind of like having several instructors in the class that can focus on individual students.  I think it also gives some ownership to the students that can be very motivational.

The Digital Bits Science Lab website is awesome!  I am always looking for quick and interesting labs or demonstrations to do in class.  This website will definately go in my toolbox.

Steve McLean, an Inupiaq scientist has a unique and interesting way to look at the interaction of humans in the ecosystem. In his interview, it states 
"MacLean believes scientists should not separate people from natural systems in their research and recommendations. Instead, they should treat people as part of the natural systems." 
I wholeheartedly agree.  We are part of the natural system and have a major impact on the world around us.  Whether  you agree that human actions (or in-actions) are good or bad, they are!

Everything this week is very relevant to Alaskan students and community members.  The cryosphere is full of fascinating interactions.  It contributes to ocean currents and weather patterns around the world, including at the equator which is unexpected to most people.  It contributes significantly to the earth’s  “energy budget” and how solar radiation is absorbed or reflected.  The image of the polar caps being a white brimmed hat is very powerful and a great way to get the idea across to people. 

The cryosphere is a great way to show an example of positive feedback.  There are so many systems in nature that are positive feedback loops and this is one that is fairly easy to explain and use as an example.

Along the same lines, the irony of how decreasing pollution levels may contributing to global warming is very relevant to students and community members alike.  It is a great discussion point to look at how all actions have consequences, both good and bad.  Community decisions have to be a balance of these two sides while keeping in mind that there may also be unforeseen consequences.

The Visible Earth has great NASA satellite pictures of changes in cryosphere.  Students can use these to quantify changes over time in the polar ice cap.

Global warming will impact the ecosystem and humans! From: National Forest Legal News Blog

3 colleagues
Janet Reed
I really like your idea for measuring temps and snow fall.  This is a great way to get kids outside and looking at the world right under their feet.  It is also a perfect inquiry project and way to show that what sometimes seems logical isn’t always so!

Tracey R. Pulido
Interesting perspective on birth control….not sure it’s appropriate to share with students, though.
After the ice storm in Fairbanks, this would be a great opportunity to have students look at the effects of global warming and the crysosphere right in their backyard!

Alicia Weaver
Module 6: I enjoyed reading your reflections and ideas about pollution in Alaska.  I, too, immediately think of pollution and big cities or populated areas and don’t think about pollution being in Alaska. It is very sobering to realize that we experience the pollution here and in a concentrated form!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Climatic Change and Cultural Observations

Climatic Change and Cultural Observations

I hope that most people realize how real climate change is by now. There is indisputable evidence that our weather (and climate) are changing.  The reason is not clear.  Nor is the decision of whether it is good or bad or how much things will change. But it is changing, and it is important that our students and community members learn about climate change and how it will potentially affect their lives in the future.

 I do dog agility...some of my lab's best buddies are corgies!

Human activity, such as migration, is connected to climate change.  Whether global warming or global cooling, it will affect how we live and where we live.  Although we don’t really think about human migration in the same sense as when the Americas and other parts of the world were populated, climate change will cause human migration in this modern age.  We have built our cities near the oceans, at the base of glaciers, and on permafrost.  As the climate warms, people are going to have to move to “higher ground” when the ocean level rises and as glaciers and permafrost melt.  Ocean flood level maps is a neat interactive that shows the changes on coastlines around the world with increases in sea level.  I will use this resource with students!

I really enjoyed the video  Inuit Observations of Climate Change.  It is appropriate that scientists are looking to the Inuit for data about climate change.  Although they may not have written records, they possess a long and accurate history of the ecosystem over a period of thousands of years.  Without the indigenous knowledge, we do not have a baseline for comparison. 

A really good book I recently read is The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change by Charles Wohlforth.  Charles writes about how climate change is affecting the indigenous people of northern Alaska and how their lifestyle is already starting to change.  He provides some very concrete examples of how Western scientists are looking at indigenous knowledge and applying it to the future. 

Jack Lane, Pt. Hope resident  March 2010 (Photo by K. East)

I had the opportunity to travel to Pt. Hope last spring, and was there when the ice broke up and the bowhead whaling season began.*  It was interesting to talk to the people about whaling.   One hunter told me, “The ice broke early last year, too, and we weren’t ready for it.  This year we are ready!” 
*Unfortunately, a whale was not landed until after I left. 

This week I learned about microbes that live and continue decomposition at temperatures below freezing.  I knew they could survive the low temperatures, but not that they keep working!  The consequences are enormous for places like Alaska.  This discovery has implications when looking for extremophiles in places as remote as Mars.  If the bacteria can live in sub-zero temperatures here, they could be also living on Mars!
Science Blog by Ethan Siegel

“We are all stardust” I tell my students in astronomy.  It is amazing that we are made of the same stuff as stars and that we may have been part of a supernova billions of years ago.  And that the Earth, residing in the Goldilocks Zone around our star, evolved an atmosphere suited for human life. 

Where can I use all this information?  Pretty much in any area I teach: astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, general science, weather, and community events!  The question might be where I can’t use this information!  I think just the fact that it applies to almost any part of science is testimony of how interconnected global climate change is to everything and everyone. 
How to explain global warming to your relatives in the Lower 48

The material presented in this module is very relevant to each and every one of us.  The material spans an enormous span: from the beginning of the Earth to now.  When the earth was first formed, we would hardly recognize it; nor would we be able to inhabit it.  The earth changed slowly but dramatically over millions of years, and it continues to change.  Perhaps the day will come when it will have changed so much that once again it will become uninhabitable for humans.  In the mean time, we need to continue to try and understand what changes are taking place, and how humans are contributing to the changes.  We have the power to control our actions, such as using energy that adds carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  Some of the changes may be beyond our control, such as changes in solar radiation as the sun goes through its cyclic life.  It is just as important to understand those changes so that we can adapt to our ever-changing environment.

Pt. Barrow, Alaska  March 2009 (photo by K. East)

The people who are most intimately connected with the land need to be the most aware.  That includes the Alaska Native populations that depend on subsistence for their cultural and their very survival.  As changes occur, some of their culture may be lost, and at the least some of it will change.

Three Colleagues

Thanks for sharing the NASA Interactive Quizzes
– great resource that I will use!  I also like your comments about teachers taking the quizzes and getting the wrong answers.  Humbles us now and then to be the student and learn what we don’t know!

I, too, really enjoyed “Inuit Observations of Climate Change”  and learning about how the Inuit women can tell about the condition of the environment by the fat layer in the animals.  Growing up and living in an urban area (well, urban for Alaska), that would never have occurred to me.  What a great illustration of how Native knowledge is just as scientific and valid as Western knowledge.

I’m not for sure about this, but my understanding is that the carbon dioxide is given off by the microbes (bacteria, fungi and others) as they decompose the plant or animal.  Swamp gas is mostly methane, another green house gas that can also be produced through the process of decomposition (like what cows do lol!)  Anyone else have an explanation?  I’d like to know for sure, too!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Module VI: The Atmosphere Around

Module VI: Oceans above, oceans below
"The sun is a mass of incandescant gas" that drives everything!

As I read through this week’s material, what struck me in each passage was the “mass of incandescent gas” located 93 million miles away determines our weather and ultimately drives the oceans and  climate.  How cool is that?
Image from the Navy Research Laboratory

Energy transfer
Cool….no hot…no wait!  That’s what drives all of these interconnected systems on our planet: temperature differences and energy transfer.  I am amazed how just a small temperature difference in the atmosphere (or in the ocean) can create wind and weather. 

I was reminded how evaporation and condensation are cooling processes.  I have done a demonstration of making rain for students where you heat up water in a pan (radiant heat from the earth).  When it starts boiling, you hold a pan of ice water about 12” from the above the boiling water. You can watch condensation and evaporation as the water boils and condenses.  It’s a quick and fun way to demonstrate one of the many processes that happen in our atmosphere.

Pollution transfer
Biomagnification:  it even sounds bad!  Because of our global weather patterns and how everything goes from “where it’s hot to where it’s not” (Clay Good) pollutants concentrate in the polar regions.  In turn, the pollutants that originated far away affect the indigenous polar cultures.  People living in the arctic regions are deeply tied to the land and sea.  I was struck by the comment in the video about the Inuit people.  Their traditional foods may no longer be safe to eat.  As a result, the people are having to change the lifestyle that they have enjoyed for thousands of years. It is incredible that the pollution created in densely populated areas half a world away can have such a profound effect.  The Inuit are now eating what their traditional foods eat! 

I have lost my identity....
Lamenting on Life as a Lobster
As Clay and the National Geographic video on Revealing the Earth’s Atmosphere pointed out, we are like lobsters crawling around on the bottom of an ocean of air.  I really like that analogy.  It gives a whole different perspective from which to view the world. 

Physics is Phun
The demonstrations about boiling water in a vacuum are awesome! Many Alaskan students can relate to the interaction of pressure and temperature by their experience with propane.  It’s a gas when you burn it, but a liquid in the tank.  I ask the students if they have ever put their hand on the tank – if they have, they know it is cold.  Then you can have a discussion about why the liquid propane is cold. Another great example is opening a can of pop while ice fishing…..another good demonstration of PV=nrT! 

The Tesla Coil in Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles (photo by K. East)

Talk about good timing – I am in the middle of a unit on weather for our home school program.  It couldn’t be more relevant and I will be using a lot of the material.  I will be using videos that explain and show how wind and ocean currents are set up.  Although students understand the basic idea that warmer (less dense) air rises and cooler (more dense) air sinks, putting that all together on a global scale is difficult.  The complicated interactions of heat, air, pressure, humidity, and temperature that drive the weather are hard to explain and demonstrate. The technology is great for being able to illustrate abstract concepts.

The information about biomagnifications of pollutants is very relevant to people in the community of Kenai.  Most people here fish for salmon. Salmon occupy a low trophic level,  however the concentrations of chemicals such as mercury can still be damaging.  It is crucial for cultures that rely on subsistence to be aware of these potential hazards.
Dip netting on Kenai City Beach (photo by K. East)

I will be able to use this information for the weather station in the Challenger Learning Center missions. We will be adding  the Mission to Earth and I will be able to design a station and curriculum specific to Alaska.  Our new Magic Planet projector can get almost real time weather from satellite data.  The background information presented in this unit is awesome.  The 3 interactives I will use are:          
Layers and composition of our atmosphere
The jetstream
The interaction of our ocean and the atmosphere
These will be used for individual students learning the basic concepts.  Then we can examine a global view on the Magic Planet.   What an awesome way to put it all in perspective for students!

Antarctic Food Web Game
could be easily adapted for an Arctic food web.  As I played the game, I was thinking of adding the animal sound when a correct choice is made.

 3 Colleagues for this week:
Tyler Orbison
Tyler makes an excellent connection between the jet stream and food.  The newspaper predicts the jet stream location will change, which affects the weather which affects the deer which affects the food supply.  Quite a connection in our daily lives that we normally don’t think about.  I also like the fact that Tyler mentions using the NOAA weather and satellite information for hunting.  It’s a great way to show students that all this science stuff can be very useful, even to the point where your life may depend on it.

Kevin Hamrick
The information about the study done by the institute in Nevada was very interesting.  Glad Kevin found that and shared it!  Just one more example of how we are all connected and why we all need to be aware of what is happening   - even if it happens half a world away!

Cheryl Emerson
I’m excited that Cheryl can use this information to prepare her students for their visit to the Challenger Learning Center!  Even though they are “space” missions, there are a lot of earth science lessons embedded in them.  I was also excited to see that she is participating in EarthKam.  What a great way to give students a global perspective.  The same goes for being able to compare historical images on Google Earth – I love that feature!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Module V: Oceans all around abound!

Oceans all around abound!

As I was going through this weeks’ material, I kept coming back to one thought: The earth is such a complex, interconnected system – how can we even begin to comprehend it?   There are so many things that influence our dynamic planet.  Since oceans cover most of the planet, they are a formidable force determining our climate, weather, flora, fauna, and our very survival. 

Sixty years ago, latest Rachel Carson wrote about the research, “In only the uppermost half mile of Pacific equatorial waters, therefore, there are three great rivers of water, one above the other, each flowing on its own course independent of the other.”  From The Sea Around Us.From The Sea Around Us.  

Rachel Carson

If Rachel were alive today, imagine how intrigued she would be by the length and breadth of the rivers of water at great depths – those conveyer belts that distribute heat around the globe. Gradients in temperature and salinity which may seem trivial make these great rivers flow in oceans. 

The influence of global warming on ocean rivers is hard to imagine.  One thing is clear: as the temperature changes, so will the oceans and their influence on every part of our planet.

Imagine what Rachel Carson would have thought about the wonders we have discovered by looking down on our planet by satellite! We can monitor the oceans down to minute changes in temperature, sea level, and life such as phytoplankton concentration.  All this information can tell us what is happening miles beneath the surface.   Rachel would be awed; I want my students to feel some of that awe when they see those images.  I want them to be inspired and motivated to realize what wonders we can still discover using technology that allows an unprecedented view of our pale blue dot.

What have I learned?  That the oceans are a wonder that I cannot begin to comprehend!

As I work on developing curriculum for our GPS workshop and climate change at the Challenger Learning Center, all of this material is very relavent.  I want to incorporate some of the interactive websites in our activities.

The interactive website about the life and work of  Dolly Garza is a great way to show the integration of traditional cultural values and modern science in the study of the ocean.  It is important to present career choices to student. This interactive goes further by illustrating the successful career choices a Native Alaskan women made.

 Living from the Land and Sea  really shows the dependence of subsistence on seasonal changes and other natural phenomenon such as moon phases.  Today most urban people notice those things, but they are not an integral part of their daily live and certainly not part of their survival. 

I love the demonstration with the  water balloon demonstrating heat capacity.  I learned the term and all equations for heat capacity as an engineering student in college. I would have gotten the concept a lot better (and sooner) had my professor used the water balloon! BTW, great example of how young students can comprehend difficult concepts if they are presented in the right way.

Understanding seasons is a complicated concept, even for adults.  The video explaining seasons provides an understandable explanation. For those kinesthetic learners, I like to do a demonstration where one student is the earth (they hold an inflatable globe), one is the moon, and one is the sun (they hold a flash or other light source).  You can demonstrate how different parts of the earth get varying amounts of solar radiation during a year.

 Another good demonstration or lab to show how the amount of sunlight affects temperature starts by putting dirt in two pans.  Put a light source shining directly on one pan and at an angle on the other.  Have students predict whether or not the temperature of both pans will be the same over time.  It is amazing how much difference even a small angle of incidence can make!  Have the students follow up by placing a piece of graph paper under each light.  You can see the difference in the area covered by the light.  This is a great inquiry activity! 

The diving sperm whale activity is a unique the dramatic change in temperatures in the ocean. It can be a cross-curricular activity for math and graphing skills while explaining oceanic thermoclines.

The whale activity would be neat to use following the grape juice or Kool-Aid ice cube activity.  Make ice cubes out of grape juice or red Kool-Aid.  Place them in a clear container (an aquarium if available) and watch what happens.  You can really see the currents, and then extrapolate this idea to oceans. Another demonstration is to put two pieces of tubing between 2L soda bottles.  Put red colored hot water in one side and blue colored cold water in the other.  Watch the currents flow through the tubes! Here’s a video with catchy music to use as an alternative: Water Density Demonstration.

There are always those students who “don’t like science.”  It is a challenge to find things to pique their interest in science.  I found some of this weeks’ activities to be a great way to meet that challenge.

A nice hook for climatology is Print your Climatoscope . A totally unexpected way to lure them in! The ideas of ocean currents and climatic variations can be introduced along side this activity.

For the artists, the false color mapping is a cool way to interest them.  You can talk about how and why the colors are used, which can lead to all kinds of discussions about data presentation. Students can use the data and come up with their own way to present it.  Discussions about  how data can be presented in different ways to study different concepts is a valuable higher level cognitive activity for high school or college level students.   These types of activities are a way to get students to look at and begin to interpret the data from a seemingly non-science point of view.  (I’m one of those tricky teachers lol!)

3 Colleagues
 This week I enjoyed reading and commenting on these colleagues:

Alison Larson I, too, was disillusioned with the Coriolis effect…. when I was in Australia many years ago, I experimented with flushing a lot of toilets only to find it didn’t workL.  What does work to show the kids, though, is to take a dry erase (not red or permanent!) marker and as you are spinning the globe, move the marker from the equator to the poles.  Makes nice clockwise/counterclockwise lines on the earth that really shows how the wind and water patterns work!
I love that you are using Google Earth in your classroom.  As this course goes on, I am discovering many ways to use different aspects of it in my teaching.  There is a tremendous variety of things you can do with it, even for space they have Google Mars and Google Moon (what will they think of next)!
P.S. I love the Kenai, too!

I really like your idea about creating a circular montage with changing seasons and activities.  What a great way to decorate a classroom…maybe even decorate a new wall for each season throughout the year.   Having an elder share with the students somehow is really neat, too.  They are a resource that is often overlooked and fits in so well with the theme of this class.  Since you farm, you can really relate the cycles of the seasons and plant growth to the students – how neat!