Monday, November 4, 2013

NGEE Arctic Goes to School…

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) held their annual Fall Festival on Friday, November 1, complete with live music, food, and various arts and craft displays. The laboratory used this event to also unveil two science education trailers – one from the Neutron Sciences Directorate and the other from the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate (EESD). Both trailers were designed to take cutting-edge science from the laboratory to elementary, middle, and high school students. The Fall Festival provided a great opportunity to showcase the trailers and their scientific displays to ORNL staff before taking them on the road.


Since Kathy Huczko, technical project manager for NGEE Arctic was a member of the team that designed the EESD trailer, we volunteered to set-up a display that would provide an opportunity for students of all ages to gain first-hand experience with frozen soils or permafrost from the north of the Arctic Circle. The “Arctic in a Mason Jar” display was specifically developed with the idea that students would learn where the Arctic was located (i.e., a long ways from where they live), how field scientists obtain permafrost cores, and how laboratory researchers measure greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane) that are produced from thawing permafrost. I was fortunate to have Taniya Roy-Chowdhury help put this display together and then have her talk people through the various aspects of the display. Taniya participated with our team last April in coring samples from the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO), outside Barrow, Alaska. She is also doing the laboratory research as part of her post-doctoral studies at ORNL so Taniya had no trouble conveying the underlying science to people in way they could easily understand. Feedback was positive and we had a great time showing everyone this unique aspect of the project.


Taniya and I will take our experience with ORNL staff and continue to modify the display to best interest students in topics that are relevant to Arctic ecosystems. Taniya and I agreed that we want to make science fun and informative for everyone regardless of age. Based on our experience at the Fall Festival, we took a positive step in that direction.