Monday, July 14, 2014

Another Fun Day with the Students...

Today was Day 2 for the Nuna 2014 Summer Camp being held at Ilisagvik Community College in Barrow, Alaska. Alessio reminds me that working with middle school students is not a simple undertaking. One must remain mindful of group dynamics, and find a balance with play and work. Alessio is making it a priority to share his enthusiasm for science. So far that approach seems to be working as the students are having a great time. The students are busy and spending a lot of time outdoors.

As a result, Day 2 was epic. Alessio and the students started off by preparing a permafrost sample. Each student prepared a mixture of soil and water and put it in the freezer. With this they were simulating ice rich vs. ice poor permafrost. After “making permafrost”, the students headed out to the NGEE Arctic field sites on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). This time Alessio tried to focus their activities on plants and animals. They discussed the importance of water, and how surface hydrology is conditioned by the ice wedge polygons discussed the day before. Kids love being outside. It was easy to see how the distribution of plants was controlled by water with sedges and forbs in water inundated areas with grasses and short woody shrubs on the drier upland areas. Not many animals were present, but Alessio and the students talked about how birds and other animals might nest on areas that were “high and dry” as opposed to areas that flooded easily.

In the afternoon the students did something very special. David Masak, a smiley man in his fifties who work for Ilisagvik, asked his dad if they could see his meat-cellar, four meters below ground, dug in permafrost. This was quite an experience, for Alessio and for the students. The cellar was dug in 1969 with an icepick, it took 3 months to dig, and since then, has provided shelter for the wild game. The students truly enjoyed the experience. First they could touch permafrost and observe it very closely. Second, they obtained a glimpse of Inupiat culture, and finally third the roof of the cellar was full of beautiful hoarfrosts which fascinated many of the students.

Alessio writes that it was a long but good day. Everyone had fun. Tomorrow is another day.