Maine Educators Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns to Embark on Polar Research Experiences

Two Maine high school teachers have received the opportunity of a lifetime. Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns, both high school social studies teachers at Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine, work across the hall from each other. Both entered separately into a competitive application process that resulted in them receiving the opportunity of a lifetime: Traveling to the Yukon’s Boreal Forest and the Greenland Ice Sheet to study with internationally-renowned climate scientists.

This opportunity will allow them to travel to the Arctic region in order to help create classroom experiences and resources which will combine social studies and environmental science in Maine classrooms.

Jenn Heidrich will be traveling to the Yukon for five weeks to study carbon sequestration in the alpine region of the Yukon, as well as biodiversity in various arctic ecosystems. She will be doing this with Dr. Jennie McLaren of University of Texas El Paso. Jennifer has a background in archaeology, geography, and science and as such, is thrilled to be working with a biologist who is examining trophic cascades in the sub-arctic. She hopes to bridge the gap between social studies and science in Maine classrooms, with a specific focus on how changes in remote ecosystems will impact cultures around the world.

Erin Towns is traveling to Ilulissat Greenland for two weeks to study how increases in surface runoff influences ice flow and subsequent loss of water mass from the Greenland ice sheet to the oceans . She will be working with Dr. Sarah Das, a glaciologist and climate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Erin’s background includes extensive work in the areas of global education, geography, and teacher professional development and she will use the experience to build social studies and science inquiry based strategies and classroom activities related to the Gulf of Maine and climate change adaptation efforts.

Beginning in June for Jenn and August for Erin, each teacher will participate as a full research team member in an authentic scientific expedition in the Arctic, joining the ranks of educators who will be working in research locations from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica, as part of a program that allows educators to experience first-hand what it is like to conduct scientific research in some of the most remote locations on earth.
Erin and Jenn are two of eleven educators selected through a nationwide search to participate in PolarTREC, an educational research experience in which classroom teachers and informal educators participate in polar research, working closely with scientists as a pathway to improving science education. Through PolarTREC, selected educators will have the rare opportunity to spend several weeks working with a research team in the Arctic or Antarctic.

While on field expeditions, educators and researchers will share their experiences with scientists, educators, communities, and students of all ages through the use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, PolarConnect real-time presentations from the field, and online learning resources. After the field experience, teachers and researchers will continue to share their experiences with the public and create instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology to classrooms.

The first expedition departs in spring 2020 with an educator deploying to the Arctic community of Utqiaġvik (Barrow) Alaska. Additional expeditions will take place throughout the Arctic field season in the summer of 2020. The Antarctic field season will be in full swing by November and continue through the winter of 2020-21. This year’s expeditions will range from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole and study a large scope of topics from marine biology to landscape ecology.

PolarTREC is managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) and funded by the National Science Foundation and additional partnerships. For more information and to participate, see the PolarTREC website at: http://www.polartrec.com or contact the ARCUS Project Managers, Janet Warburton and Judy Fahnestock at info@polartrec.com or call 907-474-1600.

Follow Erin Towns on Instagram @Esctowns and Jenn Heidrich @MrsJHikes to keep up with their travels, stories, and scientific work.

The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) is based in Fairbanks, Alaska and was formed in 1988 to provide leadership in advancing knowledge and understanding of the Arctic. ARCUS is a member consortium of educational and scientific institutions. Further information is available at: http://www.arcus.org.

This story was submitted by Shelly Mogul, Curriculum Director for Auburn School Department as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Presque Isle Regional CTE Provides Enhanced Dual Enrollment Pathway to Students

At the Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center (PIRCTC) we strive to provide our students with marketable skills which will translate to a career or educational path. Dual enrollment opportunities are a very powerful tool in this regard.

One example is the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering program. Two unique and highly effective dual enrollment opportunities are available to the Drafting & Engineering Technology students.

As a result of a collaborative effort between The University of Maine College of Engineering, Bridge Year Educational Services, Inc. and the Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center (PIRCTC) Students enrolled in the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Technology program are able to earn college credit for the Maine College of Engineering course MEE-120 (Engineering Graphics & Computer Aided Design) and CIE-101 (Engineering Graphics for Civil engineers). During the current 2019-2020 school year, 14 students have taken advantage this unique opportunity.

Since 2014, eighteen graduates of the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Technology program have been accepted into the Maine College of Engineering, majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering. Additional graduates of the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering program are pursuing degrees in Marine engineering, Industrial Design, and Precision Machine at various post-secondary institutions.

These opportunities are the first such agreement between the University of Maine, College of Engineering and a high school level program and provide an enhanced pathway for those PIRCTC students desiring to pursue an engineering degree through the Maine College of Engineering.

The PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Program is a two year program providing area high school students with computer aided design (CAD) and solid modeling skills using state-of-the art software and technology as well as introducing fundamentals of engineering and architecture, education and career paths, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and CNC technology through classroom, lab and applied learning opportunities.

This story was submitted by Timothy R. Prescott, PIRCTC Director and Terry Harper, PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Technology Instructor in collaboration with Dwight A. Littlefield, Maine DOE Director for Career and Technical Education (CTE) as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign and in celebration of CTE this month. To submit stories or ideas email them to Rachel Palling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Calling all High School Senior STEM Students! Exciting FREE Opportunity!

Each year two seniors are selected from each state to attend the National Youth Science Camp (NYSC). NYSC is a residential STEM program, designed to honor and challenge some of the nation’s rising STEM leaders. At the NYSCamp, STEM professionals present lectures and lead small-group directed studies on a broad array of STEM topics; some delegates are able to conduct research at the nearby Green Bank Observatory. The NYSCamp experience also features excursions into the Monongahela National Forest including backpacking, rock-climbing, caving, mountain biking, and kayaking.

Delegates are required to participate in the NYSCamp program for its entirety; the fast-paced activities and remote location simply make travel to and from the NYSCamp very difficult. The NYSCamp is offered to selected participants at NO COST, so that talented students may attend regardless of their financial ability – transportation included. This all-expense paid experience is open to students graduating between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Additionally, students must:

  • have documented superior academic proficiency, including recognition in mathematics or the sciences.
  • have documented leadership abilities and social maturity through involvement in school or community activities.
  • have documented skills and achievements outside the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and outside the realm of academia.
  • demonstrate a curiosity and an eagerness to explore many and varied topics.
  • intend to pursue higher education and a career in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics-related field.
  • be willing and able to participate in the entire NYSCamp program.  The 2020 NYSCamp dates are June 22 – July 15, 2020.

Students will apply online by completing the application found at http://apply.nyscamp.org. The deadline to submit applications is 6:00 PM EST on February 28, 2020.

For more information visit http://www.nyscamp.org/ or contact Shari Templeton, Maine DOE Science and Technology Specialist, at shari.templeton@maine.gov

Aquaculture me! Hosts Conference to Connect Research, Education, and Industry

Aquaculture me!, an initiative created by Yarmouth educator, 2016 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, and Miliken recipient Morgan Cuthbert, to get classroom teachers connected to the science and industry of aquaculture, held a professional development conference at the University of Maine’s Darling Center near Damariscotta last week.

Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta attended the event on behalf of the Department to give brief remarks and to extend a heartfelt appreciation to Aquaculture me! and educators throughout Maine who work hard to provide Maine students with meaningful educational lessons that incorporate scientific practice about the complex systems that affect our communities and environment through aquaculture education.

The workshop gave participants the opportunity to hear from Maine aquaculture researchers, learn about connecting with the community and the industry, in addition to hearing from Maine educators from Cape Elizabeth, Brunswick, and Yarmouth Schools about successful ways to connect Aquaculture to the classroom.

The conference also gave participants the chance to network with one another and have a round-table discussion about Aquaculture education in Maine.

For more information about Aquaculture me! visit their website.

The conference also gave participants the chance to network with one another and have a round-table discussion about Aquaculture education in Maine.

For more information about Aquaculture me! visit their website.

Maine Researchers, Teacher Begin Scientific Cruise

Submitted by Barbara Powers, Superintendent of Long Island School.

A unique educational opportunity launches on January 24, when a Maine teacher sets sail for the Southern Ocean as part of a Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences team. This partnership with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance’s “WeatherBlur” education project will bring the experience of an ocean research cruise to students in Maine and beyond.

“Research cruises are tremendously exciting, and sharing that excitement is a great way to interest students in science,” said Senior Research Scientist Barney Balch. “The ocean is endlessly fascinating, and learning about its vital role is essential to understanding life on Earth.”

Marci Train, a teacher at the two-room Long Island School in Casco Bay, will join Balch and several other Bigelow Laboratory scientists in order to engage students throughout the National Science Foundation-funded cruise. The research team aims to investigate how algae in the Southern Ocean may be affecting the future of sea life as far away as the Northern Hemisphere.

Marci Train with students

Throughout the cruise, Train will connect frequently with students in Maine and beyond. She will conduct video tours of the ship to show what a day at sea looks like, post learning materials on the WeatherBlur website, and share photos on social media. She will also assist with scientific operations and help conduct experiments.

“I can’t wait to have a first-hand experience with a scientific research project, and I think it is important for teachers to show their students that you are never too old to learn new information,” Train said. “It is important to get out of your comfort zone and share your own learning experiences with your students.”

Coccolithophores are a common type of algae that help form the base of ocean food webs, and they play a significant role in global chemical and carbon cycles. Balch recently found that they are remarkably scarce in the fertile waters near the equator, and his team aims to learn why during this cruise.

The Southern Ocean and equator are connected by an important ocean layer called “Sub-Antarctic mode water,” which forms at the surface of the Southern Ocean, sinks, and flows to the equator over a 40-year journey. Balch suspects that booming coccolithophore populations in the Southern Ocean are depleting its supply of essential nutrients before Sub-Antarctic mode water flows north, making the water layer sub-optimal for coccolithophore growth by the time it reaches the equator.

While at sea, the team will use satellite imagery to locate eddies rich in coccolithophores, whose chalk shells are so reflective that they can be seen from space. By measuring water properties in these eddies and collecting water to conduct onboard experiments, the researchers hope to uncover how coccolithophores in the Southern Ocean are altering this important source of nutrients before its long journey towards the equator.

“Sub-Antarctic mode water travels far north from where it forms, and it exerts a staggering level of control on much of the global ocean,” Balch said. “If coccolithophores are changing its essential properties, then they could be influencing which species grow in food webs as far away as the equator or even in the Northern Hemisphere.”

The team will use a creative approach to calculate how fast this water layer changes. The ship will follow Sub-Antarctic mode water for more than 1,000 miles on its journey to the Indian Ocean. As they measure the water’s basic properties, they will also collect samples at depth to measure freons, manufactured refrigerants that can be found throughout the environment.

Freons have constantly changed since their invention in the 1950s – a fact that today allows scientists to detect when water was last at the surface and exposed to freons in the atmosphere. Back on shore, a team from the University of Miami will determine which types of freons are present in different parcels of Sub-Antarctic mode water along the ship’s transect.

“Freons are a great timekeeper for the age of water,” Balch said. “We’ll use their time signatures to figure out how long it took a sample of Sub-Antarctic mode water to arrive where we found it, and to understand how quickly the water is changing as it’s moving north.”

The researchers will investigate these questions over 38 days aboard the RV Thomas Thompson. The team will depart from South Africa and return to the island of Mauritius in early March. The Bigelow Laboratory InstagramFacebook, and Twitter accounts will post updates during the cruise, as will the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

This cruise is the latest research topic to be explored by WeatherBlur, an online citizen science community funded by National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The project brings together students, teachers, community members, and scientists, who collaborate to ask questions, design scientific investigations, and bring back data and findings to discuss with each other.

Currently, WeatherBlur engages six Maine schools, as well as two schools from Mississippi and one school from Alabama. Train’s outreach from the cruise will be followed by more than 1,300 students and 26 teachers.

“I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for students to see all the different career options onboard a research vessel, including positions in research and on the crew,” Train said. “It’s important that students are exposed to STEM in action, and I can’t wait for them to be immersed in this experience and see how big scientific questions get answered.”