The chair of the IT department at Washington DC’s McKinley Technology High School will experience the Summer Solstice from a unique vantage point – an ice-class expedition sail boat. He leaves today to join a group of educators, artists and scientists sailing around the Arctic Circle for one month to create GPS-based mapping projects, an interactive travel log documenting the effects of climate change and video/online journals, to develop content for a new technology class. He explains:
“The Fund For Teachers grant will allow me to spend three weeks on a sailboat in the Arctic Circle on a Solstice Expedition, and one week on Svalbard Island on a residency designed for educators, artists, and scientists to research and collaborate on projects of their choosing. The boat leaves from Svalbard Island, Norway, which is 400 miles north of mainland Europe. Svalbard is home to a few thousand people in mining communities as well as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. I am interested in researching the practical uses of a global seed vault and also finding out what challenges they face. I would like to know how they keep these seeds secure in their complex buried inside an Arctic mountainside, and how they catalog and track the seeds from all over the world. I am also interested in documenting the journey that the boat makes for three weeks at sea in the Arctic Circle. What evidence can I find using photo, video and GPS technologies to illustrate the rapid climate changes in Arctic Sea, and how can I convey these findings to my students back home? How can I manipulate mapping technology to convey my findings in an interesting way? I want to learn how to bring the Data from field research back into the classroom to get my students motivated about their own possibilities.”
“First, I will be producing my own GPS based mapping projects to create content for a Geo-Mapping technology class I will teach next school year for high school juniors and seniors. I will also be documenting the journey with video and online journals to create an interactive travel log showing the effects of climate change. I will document the receding ice formations as well as the loss of habitat for the animal and marine life. Each photo and video will be geo-tagged and loaded onto an interactive map corresponding on the time and location of the footage. This will
create a linear way for students to follow along, but it will also give them the opportunity to scan the map and decide what they want to learn about based on the route and icons on the map. This creates an experience of self-navigation that the students can manipulate based on their own interests, instead of a traditional ‘start-to-finish’ timeline that they might not find interest in. It also gives the students an opportunity to analyze the data themselves to come up with their own scientific conclusions and predictions for the future. This will serve as a learning tool and a model for a unit that the students will take on as their final project.
"For my other project I will be conducting on site visits to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which is run by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The Global Seed Vault ensures that the genetic diversity of the world’s food crops is preserved for future generations. Scientists consider it an important contribution to the reduction of hunger and poverty in developing countries. This is where the greatest plant diversity originates and where the need for food security and the further development of agriculture is most urgent. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is established underground in a permafrost mountain of Svalbard, is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections around the globe. Many of these collections are in developing countries. If seeds are lost as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard.”