Science News

Toolik Lake Field Station- Day 2

My work team includes an outreach educator from the University of Colorado, a kindergarten teacher from Falmouth, MA, and about a dozen graduate students from Norte Dame and the University of California – San Luis Obispo. We had a camp orientation the night before to learn the in and outs of camp life. I am impressed with the organization and creature comforts. The food is fantastic. I wasn’t expecting 8 flavors of homemade ice cream in a remote tundra camp.

Our day started with a walking tour and overview of the history of Toolik Lake Field Station. There is an impressive board walk that connects the research plots across the tundra. Our first stop was one of the first projects to build artificial warming chambers to study the affect of warmer temperatures on arctic vegetation and soil ecosystems. The first chambers where established in 1986. You can see a dramatic difference in height and composition of plants inside the greenhouses. There are enclosures that test a variety of variables including increased nitrogen and phosphorous production that occurs when bacteria increase their growth in warmer soils and longer growing seasons.

Our first project is called a PLUK study.  We will be sorting plant samples from an area burned in a tundra fire in 2008. Researchers are studying how composition and speed in which the plants grow back after such a disturbance. The fire was started by a lightening strike. Thunderstorms are uncommon in the arctic, but their frequency is increasing as the average temperature increases.

We spent time reviewing how the samples where collected. It was a hot day. 70 degrees in the tundra seems like 90 elsewhere. It was a relief to escape the heat and mosquitos to help with samples collected before we arrived. Fifteen of us squeezed into a lab tent to learn how to sort and label samples, working in groups of three. We started at 11 am and finished our sample at 8 pm. There was a break for a wonderful dinner of seafood scampi and more ice cream.  I may brave the mosquitos to take some evening photos.

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Toolik Lake Field Station – Day 1

This summer I was invited to join researchers as at the Toolik Lake Research Station. Each year researchers invite educators to work on their Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects. I jumped at the chance to travel to this outpost above the Arctic Circle, on the north side of the Brooks Range. My job will be to develop a lesson plan to share what I learned with my students.

I arrived at Toolik Lake Field Station after a 2 hour flight from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay. I was greeted at the airport by the Toolik Taxi drivers. Two station staff, who’s duties include driving a largely unpaved 130 mile section of the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay to this remote research camp. I had met some of the scientists and teachers I would be working with in Anchorage.  It was relatively easy to pick out the science types from the crowd of workers flying into to work in the oil fields. My group included 2 other teachers, and an assortment of researchers and graduate students. We threw our bags in the back of the truck and split up between a passenger van and the truck space for our trek down the haul road. Two Muskoxen, 4 cranes, 4 Northern Harriers, 1 Gryfalcon, several Glaucaus Gulls, 2  ground squirrels and many bumps later brought us into camp.

I love the colors and the smells of the Tundra. The Brooks Range provides a dramatic background to the somewhat familiar Arctic terrain. The mosquitos are fierce and I look forward to starting our projects tomorrow.

11pm sun across Toolik Lake
The sleeping accommodations have comfortable beds and electricity. Quite luxurious.

 

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Adventures in Customizing Textbooks

Our first Ck12.org book has hit the classrooms. This is a huge experiment in using open source text books. LKSD has implemented our first customized Biology Text district wide.  We customized a book using templates and tools made available through Ck12.org and their Flexbook platform.

My interest began as I struggled to use commercial books that were loaded with academic language and lengthy chapters filled with thousands of concepts at once. I was searching for books that would be ESL friendly, but still rich in content and rigorous. The Ck12.org books are arranged in concepts vs chapters which present a more digestible chunk of knowledge at one time. We can also edit the book and use our own analogies and local pictures and terms.  A team of teachers worked on customizing these books over the summer. Books are available in print and digital format.

KYUK recently did a news story about our efforts.

http://kyuk.org/post/new-science-textbooks-could-bring-students-closer-science-behind-climate-change

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Paper Circuitry Engineering and Design: A Steam Project

I have made the Paper Circuit greeting card assignment an annual tradition in my Physical Science Class. This year we made the cards after learning about simple and parallel circuits in an Electricity Unit. I challenged my students to apply what they learned about electricity by designing greeting card that lights up with a paper circuit. It was a great opportunity for us to use the terms insulator, conductor, parallel circuit,  volts, amps, resistance (ohms) in concept. We also talked about the engineering design process and how this is a different from an inquiry investigation as we are applying what we know to create something.

This lesson is a work in progress. For next year, I plan to add a reflective writing piece that uses the strategies an engineering notebook would. We will also have nanometers next year and then we can analyze the current and resistance of our designs.

A big thanks to the folks at Nexmap http://www.nexmap.org/hyn-introduction/ And Chibtronics  https://chibitronics.com/for inspiring this projects. It’s one of our favorites.

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Working towards better readers and Argument Driven Inquiry

Last year, I stumbled upon the Argument Driven Inquiry process with a little nudge from a great colleague. After struggling with the Learning Cycle Model and Inquiry Science for many years, it was a relief to find a process that gave me more direction and structure to support the development of the inquiry process with my students.

My district hired ADI to provide an introductory training in the ADI process. I feel like I have been given a life preserver at sea. The ADI structure is giving me the framework and the tools I need to develop my craft as an Inquiry Science teacher. I am beginning this journey and will share more as I develop my skills. Its so exciting to see my students start to get it.

What I like about the labs is they start with a short-targeted reading that gives students the background information they need to design an investigation and unravel meaning. The readings are relevant and purposeful. This really helps my students.  The folks at ADI have some great scaffolding materials too.

Here’s  a sample of student writing submitted after our first lab:

Student Group 1:

 

Some of my students are less verbal, but they are spot on:

Student Group 2

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