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Bering Strait Teachers Examine Changing Landscape

Bering Strait Teachers Examine Changing Landscape
Posted on 04/04/2017
Celeste Foster, Calvin Aldrich, Mark Vachavake, Donald Eldridge and Brianna Wheeler examine plastic found in an albatross bolus.

“Changing Landscapes” was the theme of a recent REACH Up workshop for Bering Strait School District Educators. Sponsored by the UAF Outreach, REACH Up (Raising Educational Achievement through Cultural Heritage) provides teacher professional development and instructional support including workshops and REACH Up university course with credit and site visits by project staff, scientists, elders and other Cultural Knowledge Bearers.

The workshop, held in Anchorage February 2-5, opened with a feature presentation by Ken Tape, an ecologist at the Institute of Northern Engineering, UAF. Dr. Tape’s research describes the impact of 20th Century climate warming on various components of the arctic ecosystem, and uses repeat photography to document landscape change in Northern Alaska, especially shrub expansion.  REACH Up staff members Sally Kieper and Sam Norlin unveiled the interactive StoryMap on the k12reach.org website that features the dramatic acceleration in shrub expansion in Unalakleet, Alaska between 1951 and 2015.

Eduard Zdor, a doctoral candidate at UAF, discussed sea ice changes from the other side of the Strait, Chukotka, where traditional methods of subsistence were resurrected after the fall of the Soviet Union. Using observations compiled from satellites and Locally Recognized Experts, Mr. Zdor and Dr. Olivia Lee compared images of sea ice, and discussed implications for the future.

A trip to the UAA planetarium, albatross bolus dissection, and a field experience at Campbell Creek Science Center involved experiential learning activities most of which can be reproduced in the classroom to further engage students in inquiry and exploration.

Teachers also tested prototype lessons in Permafrost Thaw, Shrub Expansion, and the Northern Lights. The lessons themselves are crafted to fit into one-hour class periods and include step-by-step instructions, enrichment activities, student worksheets, cultural and scientific background information and student pre-and post-tests. All lessons and student activities and resource materials developed by REACH Up are reviewed by three groups of people: Master STEM teachers, Cultural Knowledge Bearers, and Scientists.  Videos featuring Cultural Knowledge Bearers and Scientists were premiered as well. 

Teachers expressed enthusiasm for the workshop experience and the lessons that connect scientific concepts and inquiry directly to the students’ environment.