Maggie Prevenas, Week 3 in Review, April 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 28, 2007

Week in Review

Monday, April 23: The ice is back so we have resumed our ice observation. Every two hours we haul ourselves up to the Bridge and write down our observations in a form. It averages about 7 times a day, and Robyn and I split up the observations so we have equal numbers. We are contributing ?

Weather was really icky. The morning helicopter observations were canceled because of poor visibility and wind. The wind has calmed down a bit, but the fog is still present. It will make for difficult observations in some areas. The rest of the research team is working steadily in the labs. They are all looking forward to the sampling of the ice algae for tomorrow. Robyn and I are trying to prepare for the webinar for Thursday. The scientists who will be on the show have been super helpful in providing us with materials for the webinar.

Tuesday, April 24: Scientists on ice. We hit very thick ice last night. The scientists are ready to go out for an ice sample. The ship just tucked up, into the ice. It let down a metal ramp, and down we went. All of the scientists were very excited to get off the boat. They have been stuck in a lab since the cruise started.

Most of the scientists are doing experiments associated or needing seawater. The stop on the ice was the first for all of them, to drill ice cores, collect ice and melt it down. When they return to the ship, they test it to see what secrets it may tell. The visit to the ice had almost a party-like atmosphere. Remember the reason they were collecting ice samples, was because of the puzzling results they were getting. I believe every single scientist and assistant were on the ice except the marine mammal and bird folks, who are doing a different kind of sampling. The scientists were on the ice from 8:30 am through 11 am. That is the time when oxygen release and chlorophyll is dramatically observed and measured. They will be returning to the ice in the future to continue to take the ice samples.

Seal Tagging: Oh, but my day was not over yet. I was about to get a hands-on experience in tagging ice seals. Instead of re-explaining it all here, I thought I could ask you to go into my journals and check the entry ‘Seal Tagging Adventure.’ You can get very good details and photos of the event. We got back to the ship around four pm. My tail was dragging from leaping over snow banks and falling over ice chunks. Tagging seals is a very rigorous science occupation.

Wednesday, April 25: Getting ready for the webcast. This was the last full day we had to deal with all the background of materials that needed to come to us for the webinar. Both of the scientists Alex DiRobertis, and Jeff Napp, provided us with a nice powerpoint presentation for our audience to see while we talked.

It was also time for me to start preparing for the classroom visits to St. George and St. Paul Islands. There were activities to write, brochures to track activities, and materials to hunt down. That took a lot of time for me, because I decided to take the students K-8. Robyn took the 4 high schoolers. All of my students would rotate through two different classes. In each class there were three different stations. I wanted to engage the students in some kind of active learning.

It was also time to write and reflect on the seal tagging.

I took almost 150 pictures of the seal tagging adventure. I needed to select the best for the Journal Article on tagging seals. I also needed to write an article and highlight those images in the Journal. I completed it by the end of the day, and turned it back to the Polartrec website along with the 18 pictures I selected to illustrate the activity.

Thursday, April 26 Webcast day. A zillion details to wade through. To make matters a bit more complicated, the place where we normally have our webinar was going to be used by the science team, so we had to seek out an alternative spot to broadcast.

At first we chose the chief scientists room. But the static and noises from the phone made us try yet another room. Down on the third floor to try two other rooms. Time was tight, it was 12:30 time to broadcast! So we decided to start it going in the regular spot and then move out into the hallway as the scientists meeting continued.

However, as soon as we moved, the feedback from the speakers overwhelmed us. For every word we spoke there was an echo. We were just about to hang up early when someone got the bright idea to go into my room and continue the webinar. All 7 of us picked up one piece of the telephone system and moved as one into my small stateroom.

We were good to broadcast for another 10 minutes, before the iridum phone broke connection. We tried and tried to call back. On the last try, Robyn got through. After 60 minutes of technological torture, we were done! Yahoo! And now back to the St. George presentations we were developing for the next day. I stayed up until 1:30 making pollack, krill, and phytoplankton puppets. I also needed to put all my Hawaii products out for the kids to try. Dried pineapple, mango, ginger, candy postcards, and pencils. I hoped the students would enjoy learning about my students on Maui. I checked and double checked my duffle bag to make sure I had all the materials and then some more!

Friday, April 27, 2007: The zodiac to St. George. Right after breakfast, the team of scientists and others (us teacher kine) were directed to the helo area (where the helicopter is stored) to put on our survival suits. The MS 900. Since I was going to have my students try on the suit I was wearing, I was able to keep it on, and change into my street clothes at the school.

The zodiac ride over was so much FUN! Splash, splash, kersplash, the person at the front of the bow got very wet. The rest of us hid behind him and let him take the salty spray. Once on the island, we were transported to the school via a little white bus.

THAT’S when the fun really began!

We did an icebreaking activity (person bingo) that was a real hit! Each person had a piece of paper with 20 questions. Each person had to find someone in the general meeting area who could answer that question right. Then, they put their name on the sheet. The first one with a complete blackout wins.

Then we rolled into our next activity, ‘Which creature do you identify with best?’ There were loads of people who stood by the polar bear, humpback whale, and walrus. The phytoplankton and pollack were ignored by everyone.  Hopefully by the end of the day, they might warm up to this microscopic creature and learn that it controls the entire ecosystem.

The elementary students and middle schools funneled through my stations. Of course their favorite was the station about Hawaii, mostly because of the treats I offered, perhaps? I do believe they have learned a little more about my island home and the students I teach. I hope we can continue or friendship via a blog spot I recently set up. They were incredibly respectful and curious students!

We brought the four high schoolers and some teachers and community members back o the ship with us. They were given a nice tour of the boat and supper. Back to the zodiacs they went. We waved Aloha to our new friends.

Saturday, April 28: St Paul. The other Pribilof Island. Stormy seas were forecasted. To the Coast Guard it was all about safety. To Robyn and me it was all about getting there and back. We had a presentation scheduled for the school from 11-12:30. We wanted to connect with the community.

St. Paul is larger than St. George. The helicopter was an efficient way to transport people off the boat (those who were going home) and pick up people coming to the boat (those scientists who were joining our adventure). Robyn, David Doucet (air safety manager) and I were the first flight out. Robyn and I were very excited and nervous at the same time.

Up and off we flew, 6 miles from the ship to the airport over the freezing cold Bering Sea. One minute on the ship, blink twice, we were landing safely at the airport in St. Paul. Tonia Kushin, teacher from St. Paul and I had been in contact with each other since late March. We wanted to bring her students culture to my students culture and make a meaningful connection. She took us on a tour of St. Paul, and then took us to her school. Both Robyn and I took in her tour like a sponge.

It was a wonderful time! We were set up in the library, a most fantastic place to learn. Surrounded by student made kayaks, a seal skeleton, and many antique photos from the olden time, we began our introductions.

Our education activity stations were a hit. I think the one the students enjoyed most was getting into and out of the MS 900 suit and bunny boots.

We talked to the audience about marine mammals, then broke into activity stations, then were treated to a celebration of dance. Their costumes were gorgeous!

Their dance lively!

Their song rang clear and sweet.

It brought tears to my eyes.

I went back to the Aleut classroom to see their costumes up close and was rewarded with the students coming up to me and answering all my questions. Their wonderful teacher too!

She told me that the dancing group is getting smaller and younger with each passing year. Seems many teenagers are no longer interested in learning the Aleut ways. I understood what she said. It is difficult to compete with videogames and the internet. I see some of my students in Hawaii making those same choices.

Before we knew it, it was time to go. The wind had picked up considerably and we needed to leave the school, WIKI WIKI!

We said a hurried good-bye, and left St. Paul behind. I left the island with a treasure trove of memories, and a stack of Styrofoam cups for the St. Paul students experiment “Down to the Deep.”

That kinda says it all for me.  This experience is all about science and making cultural connections. It is all one ocean, one voice, one earth.