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How do we learn about climate?

Student Handout

Science in Western Alaska

Science is a part of everyday life. It is a system of knowledge gained through careful observations and study.In the modern world, both traditional ways of knowing and western science are working together to solve modern problems such as global warming. The Goose project is an example of science that has both a traditional and western perspective. Scientists and Yupik elders have observed a shift in Alaskan climate. Observations include winters that are warmer and a decrease in snowfall. Alaska has experienced the largest shift in temperature of any state in the US. This can be observed by permafrost melting, changing vegetation, and sea ice changes.

The following video describes more about scientific inquiry in Western Alaskan communities. Listen to these stories and learn more about how science is a tool for understanding our world.

Video Exploration 1 Questions

  1. This video describes a world perspective in which “everything is connected.” What is meant by that? Give an example of how you are connected.
  2. How would you compare the way in which the Cup’ik people and Western scientists view the natural world? What are the similarities and differences?

Blending Traditional and Western Science

The Yup’ik people have no word for science, yet their tools were so well designed that they allowed the Yupiit to live in a land no one else would inhabit. Yup’ik technology can demonstrate scientific principles in new and exciting ways by matching practical outcomes to the problems they were designed to solve. Yup’ik knowledge and insight can be blended with Western technologies to solve modern problems.

Video Exploration 2 Questions

  1. What does it mean to read the landscape and the weather compared to simply observing the landscape and the weather?
  2. What are some of the important observations—referred to as signmakers—that Alaska Native pilots use to read the landscape and the weather?
  3. Natural signmakers—or sensemakers—as well as aircraft instruments and technology are all useful tools that pilots in Alaska can use to fly their planes safely. Do you think one is more important than the other under certain conditions?
  4. How experienced and knowledgeable must a person be to observe and accurately read all these factors?

Climate Change in Alaska

Regions of the Arctic are experiencing dramatic climate change. Both scientists and Yupik elders have observed a shift in Alaskan climate. Observations include winters that are warmer and a decrease in snowfall. According to scientific records, Alaska has experienced the largest shift in temperature of any state in the US.  This video shows how climate is affecting certain species of geese. Geese  are an important subsistence food. Scientists and elders are working together to study issues that affect our future.

Video Exploration 3 Questions

  1. Geese are facing environmental challenges as the climate changes in the Arctic. What are some of the challenges to the goose life cycle?
  2. How may climate change impact the geese?
  3. In what ways might the geese adapt in response to changing environmental conditions?
  4. How might the change in migratory patterns and a population decline of geese affect Arctic residents?

Further Reading