Kea Duckenfield, Office of Global Programs
It might not be obvious from the average science textbook, but not all the big questions have been answered yet. Before students can become future scientists, this point has to be brought home to them - accompanied by their own realization that the people now searching for the answers are in many ways just like them.
By sending science teachers into the field to observe and take part in NOAA research expeditions, the Teacher at Sea program is taking on the challenge of proving to students that great science still remains to be done, and that they can choose themselves to do it. Over the last twelve years, the Teacher at Sea program has sent more than 360 teachers all over the world with NOAA. Aboard ships, on planes, and on the ground, they have experienced scientific research first-hand, and then brought that experience back to their classes. (See Inset, The Science of NEAQS-ITCT 2004.)
NEAQS-ITCT 2004 Teachers in the Field
This month, over 100 scientists from five countries are wrapping up a four-month field campaign for what's being called the largest and most complex air quality-climate study in history. ICARTT (the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation) researchers have been collecting samples and measurements over an area that extends from the middle of North America across the Atlantic Ocean and into Western Europe.
Within this huge study region, NOAA has led its own massive coordinated field mission: NEAQS-ITCT 2004: The New England Air Quality Study - International Transport and Chemical Transformation, 2004. (See Video Links.) The NOAA-led mission included ground-based sites (Chebogue Point Ground Site, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Profiler Network), operational forecast support headquartered at Pease International Tradeport, airborne measurements from NOAA's Lockheed WP-3D Orion and ETL remote sensing DC-3, and four weeks of intense field work aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Ronald H. Brown. (See Pictures)
Observing, reporting, and taking part in the science of NEAQS-ITCT 2004 were three American teachers: Kirk Beckendorf, from Obsidian Middle School in Redmond, Oregon; Kevin McMahon, from William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, New York; and Brian Emond, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. All three participated as part of NOAA's Teacher at Sea program, and were supported by the Office of Global Programs (OGP), the NOAA Marine and Aviation aoperations (NMAO) Teacher at Sea office, and the University of Iowa's Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER).
Kirk and Kevin spent time aboard the Brown, on the ground, and aloft. Kirk joined the Brown in Portsmouth for the first leg of her two-part cruise (July 4 - 23), and then disembarked to investigate the operations center at Pease and ground-based research at Mount Washington, and spent time with one of the forecasters in Plymouth, NH. (See Kirk's daily logs and photos.)
Kevin worked at Pease for several days, including flights on the NOAA DC-3 and NASA DC-8, before embarking for the second leg of the Brown's cruise (July 26 - August 12). He left the ship on August 9 and finished up with a second stint at Pease. (See Kevin's daily logs and photos.)
The third NEAQS-ITCT 2004 teacher, Brian, was also a Teacher at Sea in 1999. He returned to the field for this campaign as a TAS alumnus, videographer, and science education teacher. Brian's objective was to capture both the NOAA-led mission and Kirk and Kevin's experiences on film. He was at Portsmouth from July 22 - August 1, conducting interviews and filming activities and science meetings.
Brian will be producing a video for presentation at educational conferences, such as national and regional meetings of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and other science education conferences. He will also create a curriculum unit with exercises for elementary through high school use.
The NOAA Teachers at Sea are taking part in field science; and in the field, surprises are nearly always a part of the experience. Sometimes there are so many unforseen events that the mission becomes something completely different from what anyone expected. Several of the surprises Kirk and Kevin met with can be read about in their logs - equipment breaking, uncooperative weather, and sudden encounters with high-ozone plumes, to name a few.
Fortunately, the NEAQS-ITCT 2004 teachers seem to have rolled with the unpredictabilities they faced. I asked Kirk for a few reflections on his time in the field. Kirk wrote back, "The experience was incredible."
"I have to admit," he added, "that when I left Central Oregon (where we have high air quality) to go to New England I really did not think there would be much relevance to our area. During my time on the Brown and at Pease, I came to understand how much air quality is really not just a local issue but rather a global issue." Kirk plans to make one of the central themes of his new unit 'To what extent can we have a local environment?' As he wrote from the Brown on July 22, "Air pollution is a global problem not a local problem. Even people in areas, like Redmond, OR, with little pollution should be concerned. Air pollution doesn't stay where it is made. North America gets pollution from Asia, Europe gets pollution from N. America, Asia gets pollution from Europe."
"Each one of us needs to realize that we are part of the problem."
For his part, Kevin called it "the most wonderful experience I've ever had." He talked about his amazement at the highly advanced capabilities of the instruments, the huge quantities of data being collected, the incredible range of samples being collected, and the complex logistics at every level of operations, even down to feeding the scientists and crew aboard the Brown.
Kevin also commented on how the mission brought home to him, too, the fact that air pollution is a global issue. We can't get away from it, he said, even in a fjord in Maine; even if we have enough money to live in a place like Bar Harbor.
"We all produce it, and we all receive it."
PDF Version - for easier printing.
For information on the NEAQS Teacher in the Field program, go to http://www.ogp.noaa.gov/neaqs/. For more details on this program, contact: