Teachers to Learn About Climate Change

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – School teachers from across Alaska are getting lessons this month at the University of Alaska Fairbanks so they can more effectively teach their students back home about climate change.

Sixty teachers are scheduled to participate in this year’s Science Teacher Education Program hosted by the Geophysical Institute at the university. During the program’s two-week sessions, teachers learn from scientists and develop lesson plans together.

“The plan is to have teachers better prepared to teach science,” Mary Martin, the program’s coordinator said. “This year it’s about scientists teaching about global climate change.”

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The first session of the program started last week and runs through Friday with 30 teachers participating. Another batch of teachers is scheduled to arrive on campus next week.

Each day, teachers will spend several hours in the morning talking with UAF scientists about the latest research on sea ice, coastal erosion, glaciers, permafrost and hydrology.

Researcher Hajo Eicken on Tuesday showed the teachers how to access high-resolution satellite images and aerial photography mosaics of the Arctic.

“This opens the door to a vast amount of data,” Eicken told the teachers as he taught them how to use computer software to view and manipulate the images.

Ken Stenek, who teaches science in Shishmaref, was excited about using the technology with his classes in the small 185-student school. Stenek said he planned on using the software to help his students compare 40-year-old topographic maps of their Chukchi Sea island home with more recent satellite images.

That way, he said, the students can see how much the coast has eroded.

“We can pick a point (on the topographic map) and then flip to a satellite image, which is going to show where the land is now,” he said. “We’ll measure the distance of the change.”

During lunch, small groups of teachers huddled together in the conference room of the university’s Akasofu Building swapping ideas and lesson plans. One group discussed how to use global position system data and computer programs such as Google Earth with traditional paper maps to help third-graders understand latitude and longitude.

Stenek, who teaches older students, said he’s been picking up tips from elementary school teachers so he can share them with his colleagues back home.

“I’ll be taking back stuff for them that they can use so we can strengthen the science program in our school,” he said.

With the help of curriculum experts from the Alaska Science Consortium, the teachers have been working on lesson plans of their own based on what they’ve learned from the UAF researchers. Those lessons will be compiled and made available for download on the Internet at http://www.gi.alaska.edu/STEP.

“Eventually there will be hundreds of lessons on the Web site,” Martin said.

Besides Shishmaref, there are teachers from Dillingham, Nulato, Beaver, Anchorage and Fairbanks participating in the climate change classes.

Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

A service of the Associated Press(AP)