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Green sky and station in Greenland

Adventure Learning @ Greenland: Arctic Expedition

Written by, Allison Stormo

As summer’s heat nears, two University of Idaho faculty members are gearing up to head north and spend nearly two weeks in the Arctic.

Brant G. Miller, assistant professor of science and technology education in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and R. Justin Hougham, a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Science’s Geography Department received more than $58,000 National Science Foundation grant for Adventure Learning @ Greenland. They will be joined on the July 9-22 trip by expedition scientist Chris Cox, a doctoral candidate in the Geography Department’s environmental science program.

In August, Adventure Learning at University of Idaho (AL@UI) celebrates it first anniversary on campus. The program is coordinated by Miller, Hougham and Karla Bradley Eitel, an assistant professor with the College of Natural Resources who serves as the director of education for the McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS).

GreenlandAdventure Learning aims to work through partnerships to give students a way to experience real-world research through observing and participating in authentic educational activities related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The students observe scientists’ work even at a remote location through an online environment using various social media platforms.

“The main thing that we do is communicate science to a variety of audiences,” Hougham said.

While Hougham and Miller have conducted more than a half-dozen Adventure Learning expeditions during the past year, for the first time they will work directly with U-Idaho Upward Bound Math Science high school students from Lewiston and the Coeur d’Alene area.

They will create a formal distance-learning activity in conjunction with the ICECAPS (Integrated Characterization of Energy, Clouds, Atmospheric state and Precipitation at Summit Station) experiment. Von P. Walden, professor of Geography in the College of Science, is the principal investigator on the ICECAPS project. Cox, who has been working on ICECAPS, will be the liaison between the science of ICECAPS and AL@Greenland. He is supported on this trip through grants established by Walden. In addition, Cox will help the team with data collection, instrument use and work with the students to answer questions. Cox is completing interdisciplinary work required to receive his doctorate through the AL@Greenland expedition.

“Education and science education is really important,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for me to learn more about how to present science.”

Hougham and Miller also will be working directly in Greenland with about 10 high school students from the United States, Greenland and Denmark who were selected as part of the Joint Science Education Project’s Science Education week. The pair will be compiling data at Summit Station and Kangerlussuaq in an effort to support climate literacy and convey information about radiation, greenhouse effect and climate vs. weather. They will post daily field reports to the AL@Greenland site, which can be accessed through AL@UI and updates also will be on Facebook.

The Upward Bound students in Idaho will be able to follow the narrative and participate in weekly live chats as well as follow inquiries by students in Greenland. The public will be able to engage with the expedition through the site as well. The Upward Bound group will spend three weeks this summer at MOSS where they will conduct some of the same research being done in Greenland with a low-cost version of high-tech tools used at Summit Station.

“ICECAPS instruments are big, fancy, complicated machines,” Cox said.

The instrument kits that will be used by students are much simpler and easier to understand. “The goal is to get the kits in the hands of students so they can use the instruments as a gateway to understand ICECAPS,” he said.

Brant Miller in Greenland in 2010

Some of the experiments the students will be conducting include using a meteorological sensor to measure temperature and wind speed, an infrared imager which can measure heat as well as tests to measure temperatures of clouds versus the space around them, cloud height and humidity.

Kirsten LaPaglia, director of Upward Bound Math Science, said this process helps science become more relevant to the students by being able to see how it applies to their local environment and interacting with peers operating at a site in another part of the world.

“It helps to make the science more interesting and relevant rather than having a bunch of facts thrown at them,” she said.

The Upward Bound Math Science students will take what they learn and conduct a two-day workshop with middle school students in Sandpoint after their experience at MOSS.

“STEM research is important for students of Idaho and students everywhere to participate in the economies of tomorrow,” Hougham said. “It will be increasingly imperative that they have the skills and literacy in science, technology, engineering and math to make good decisions, to experience discoveries and to enrich the quality of life for themselves and those around them.”

As Hougham and Miller develop curriculum that can be applied to a local setting, they also have a grand vision of a larger capacity for AL@UI.

“Educators will know that they can go to one website and be able to plug an expedition into their curriculum that will meet their standards,” Miller said. “We really believe the experience can be localized while at the same time highlighting critical science issues and research around the globe.”