Polar-ICE developed from a strong interest among the project partners in communicating about the rapidly changing climate and incredible ecosystems in the higher latitudes.
Project PI, Dr. Oscar Schofield has been doing research in Antarctica his whole career and has seen dramatic changes in the Western Antarctica Peninsula ecosystem at Palmer Research Station. Since so few scientists (people) get to visit this amazing place, he wanted to share his observations with the public so he co-produced a documentary with Dena Seidel called Antarctica Edge: 70 Degrees South where his personal journey and motivation is beautifully told. He was looking for more ways to bring the Antarctic to broader audiences.
Similarly, Dr. Josh Kohut, wanted to share his observations and Antarctic research with broader audiences. He began collaborating with K-12 educators to tell the story of what is happening to the Antarctica ecosystem. In 2014-15, Josh co-developed Project CONVERGE to provide a deep connection into the content and process of science for over 1,000 teachers and students. The program culminated in a Student Research Symposium where students presented their results from analyzing real-time data from CONVERGE through scientific posters (see video summary for more). The teachers and students felt a part of the research mission and were extremely invested in the scientists’ work and findings, leaving Josh wanting to engage more audiences with polar data and the process of science.
Through Project CONVERGE and other polar projects, approximately 7,000 people throughout the globe were connected via videa teleconference to researchers down at Palmer Research Station. The participants watched a live-feed from a penguin colony while getting to ask questions in real-time about the birds, ecosystem, and polar research. These experiences further convinced Josh of the need and opportunity to connect educators and students to the Antarctic.
The education team for Polar-ICE has spent the last ten years developing strategies to promote collaborations among educators and scientists all with the goal of improving Ocean Literacy. The NSF funded Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence is where we learned how to do that. It is critical to promote and nurture these collaborations. When these personal connections are made, great things happen in teaching and learning.