Cool Summer School: Science Education Week

About a week after students and teachers from Denmark, Greenland, and the United States bid one another farewell in Kangerlussuaq, the synergy and camaraderie of the 2010 Joint Committee "Science in Education" week continues to grow, as evidenced by promises to continue their new collaboration via Skype, several blogs, and plans to learn each others' language. Sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, and the New York AirNational Guard, the "Sci Ed" week fostered a tight-knit group that shared a love for science, the cold, and adventure.

"The students were all very interested and engaged in the science," said Polar Field Service's Robbie Score, who accompanied the crew during the week, July 19-27. "They asked a lot of questions and all really liked each other. They quickly became like a family.  A functional family."

Welcome to the Ice

The team consisted of 15 students and teachers from Greenland, Denmark, and the United States. Convening  in Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland, they were indoctrinated into the ice their first full day, July 20. After a morning spent gathering all the cold weather gear they'd need for the week, the team drove to the trailhead and hiked to the ice sheet.

Teacher Marti Canipe blogged about her impressions and said the first site of the ice was incredible.

"To say that seeing the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet is spectacular doesn't begin to convey what this experience is like," she wrote. "The wall of ice is massive and at this point it is only a fraction of the thickest part of the ice. To stand there and look at the ice sheet stretching off into the distance and to know that it is covering the vast majority of Greenland is an awe inspiring moment."

To Summit Station

The next day the group flew to Summit Station and were surprised to find the research outpost full of international scientists and experiments, said Score. Even the Greenlander students had little idea of the scope and size of Summit; indeed the students said they felt like tourists.

So they set about sight-seeing. With a trip to the Flux facility and a presentation on unmanned airborne vehicles (UAV) by scientist Rune Storvold, they learned about instrumentation that measures albedo.

They also explored two snow pits where they examined the myriad layers. Next up was a trip to the Temporary Atmospheric Watch Observatory (TAWO) where they learned how  scientists at the station measure, record, and track blacck arbon, CO2, and other particles and gases in the atmosphere.

Finally, they had the opportunity to launch a NOAA balloon from Summit's Mobile Science Facility. These balloons  help scientists study clouds in order to better understand the atmosphere and improve climate pattern models. The scientists  use sonar, radar, and lasers to figure many different aspects about the cloud altitude, height and structure, and the students listened attentively to all the presentations.

Snowed Out

On deck the next day was a trip to observe the ice core drilling at NEEM, but a four-day blizzard made travel impossible, much to the dismay of the students. Nonetheless they were good sports, playing scrabble and other games as they killed time while the trip organizers came up with Plan B: back to Kangar.

They were not to be disappointed. In Kangar the PI from NEEM gave an overview of the science and drilling operations, and the next day the group went to Kellyville and also hiked to a glacier where they did some experiments of their own (see photos below).

A NEEM Daytrip

On July 25 the weather cleared and the group flew to NEEM, much to their extreme delight.

"The Denmark and Greenland students kept saying they couldn't believe they were actually at NEEM," said Score. "They were very animated."


In all, the week was a tremendous success, said Score. In addition to being exposed to a wide variety of science disciplines, the students met field staff at the research stations who have unique careers that the kids might never have known about. Meeting and making friends from other countries also expanded the students' horizons, and all of the teachers reported learning much and returning home with renewed energy to teach once school starts this fall.

And who knows? Perhaps in a few years the students will be back as researchers themselves! —Rachel Walker