Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Science Camp at Ilisagvik College - Another Awesome Day

I heard from Alessio last night and it seems that he, Skye, and the kids made it through another exciting day at science camp. The camp is being offered through Ilisagvik College. Located in the northernmost point of Alaska (Barrow), Ilisagvik College is a two-year community college offering quality post-secondary academic, vocational, and technical education. The college and its staff are dedicated to perpetuating and strengthening Inupiat culture, language, values, and traditions. They are active in supporting various camps throughout the year for local residents of the North Slope.



Knowing the high-energy style of interaction that Alessio enjoys, I appreciated the humor underlying in his summary of yesterday’s activities. He writes:

“Entertaining these young humans for 8 hours a day is both an intense and rewarding activity. Forget about the PowerPoint style lecture that I am so familiar with. Their attention span lasts no more than 5 minutes. After that, magnificent phenomena starts to happen: pencils get examined and broken, paper gets folded, moustaches are being drawn under noses, and objects starts flying. One soon learns how to identify the signs of an instable boat and learn how to get them back onto a productive path: “Ok! Let’s play a game!” We measured air-temperature, emptied our rain gauge, we discussed the concept of habitat, we drew pictures of polar bears standing on the ice, we measured the melting of mini-glaciers located in different climates (some of them inside the classroom some of them outside the classroom), we learned how female and male emperor penguin find each other, we clay-modeled birds’ feet to figure out adaptation strategies, we observed rocks, plants and each other’s hair on a portable microscope and we analyzed the difference between the Arctic and the Antarctic. As you might guess the comparison between the two hemispheres was quite imbalanced. The Arctic part of the Venn diagram was enthusiastically filled by content, the Antarctic… not so much.”

Alessio and others involved in the camp stayed up late last night putting the finishing touches on the activities for today. Tuesday is “Permafrost Day”. The kids will model the tundra landscape using clay. Later in the day they will visit the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) where scientists from the NGEE Arctic project and other national and international teams are conducting research this summer. It will be interesting to see how the kids react to science in the field. Alessio points out that the Arctic is home to these kids, they have observed polar bears and seals, they dream of becoming whalers, caribou hunters, and they already maneuver snow machines with great expertise. There is still much to teach these kids about their frozen environment; fortunately, Alessio is doing that this week. 

Some highlights of camp Day 2 at Ilisagvik College: modeling various bird feet,
looking through microscopes, and collecting precipitation data with a rain gauge. Earth science is fun!
Photo courtesy of Skye Sturm