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New Booklet About Modern Antarctic Science

April 20, 2011

Antarctica: A Journey of Discovery Useful to Teachers Across Disciplines

The National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs is making available a new full-color, extensively illustrated booklet that highlights the variety of cutting-edge science conducted in Antarctica at the three year-round stations the United States maintains on the continent. The booklet, which is available on-line, is aimed primarily at a middle-school audience and is designed to be useful as supplementary material for classroom teachers in a variety of subjects.

The 60-page booklet, Antarctica: A Journey of Discovery, was written and designed by the NSF-funded, Lincoln, Neb.-based Antarctic geological Drilling (ANDRILL) project. NSF funds the U.S. participation in ANDRILL, a multinational collaboration comprised of more than 200 scientists, students, and educators from five nations, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Antarctica: A Journey of Discovery provides a basic introduction to subjects as diverse as the food web of the Southern Ocean-which includes penguins, orcas and shrimp-like Krill; the use of ice cores to establish a climate record extending back nearly a million years; state-of-the-art particle physics as carried out at the South Pole; and how Antarctic geology yields clues to our planet’s past and its development.

The booklet also includes a brief history of Antarctic exploration, both historical and modern, and material about how modern-day researchers prepare to work on the world’s coldest, highest and driest continent.

The content focuses on examples of science that are carried out at the individual U.S. Antarctic Program stations; Palmer, on the Antarctic Peninsula; McMurdo, on Ross Island; and Amundsen-Scott at the geographic South Pole. Through its Office of Polar Programs, NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which manages all U.S. scientific research and related logistics on the southernmost continent and aboard ships in the Southern Ocean.

“As is true across NSF, the Office of Polar Programs takes very seriously its responsibility to meld research with education,” said Peter West, OPP’s education and outreach program manager. “Making this publication available is just one of many ways that OPP informs the public about the scientific research we support in both Polar regions, in this case by providing exciting, scientifically accurate and up-to-date content in a form that is accessible to younger readers.”

Designed as a “non-fiction book accessible to anyone at a middle-school reading level,” the document should be equally useful for teaching about real-world Polar science or in helping to teach reading by providing young students with engaging content, said Louise Huffman, ANDRILL’s coordinator of education and outreach.

ANDRILL’S objective is to drill back in time to recover a history of ancient environmental changes to help guide our understanding of the speed, the size, and the frequency of past glacial and interglacial changes in the Antarctic region. Knowing how much and how rapidly the climate changed in the past is expected to provide important clues as to how climate change may affect the globe today.

ANDRILL produced Antarctica: A Journey of Discovery at OPP’s request. U.S. Antarctic Program scientists reviewed the science presented in the booklet.

“The project was conceived to give an age-appropriate overview of the types of science that is being supported by the Office of Polar Programs in Antarctica and how that science is relevant to and connected to the lives of all of us, no matter where we live, as well as to convey some of the excitement and adventure of working in the Polar Regions,” Huffman said.

While the booklet focuses on science, Huffman noted that it has the potential to be used much more widely by teachers.

“One of the things that we’re finding that teachers are excited about the potential for using it to teach reading,” she said. “Given the nationwide emphasis on improving basic literacy, teachers are always looking for good non-fiction pieces for their kids to read. Several teachers have contacted me for class sets of the books to teach reading.”

Although the booklet touches on natural sciences as diverse as astronomy and astrophysics, biology, geology, meteorology and oceanography, the content also could lend itself to teaching geography and the social sciences.

“It has some really good interdisciplinary and cross-curricular potential,” Huffman noted.

Antarctica: A Journey of Discovery is available for download in PDF format on the ANDRILL website.

A very limited number of hard copies are available and may be ordered by contacting David Friscic, technical information specialist in NSF’s Office of Polar Programs: dfriscic@nsf.gov / (703) 292-8014.

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