March 9, 2007

‘Cool Science': Kids Can Learn About Life in the Arctic Circle

By Natasha Derrick

Every year the arctic tern migrates 22,000 miles from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica -- from the North Pole to the South Pole. But visitors at EdVenture won't have to go that far to learn about its habitat.

On Tuesday evening, Doug Williams, scientist-in-residence and USC professor, will host Science Jam as part of the museum's monthly Family Night. He will lead children and their parents on a scientific tour through both polar regions.

"(Science Jam) is going to have a wide range of opportunities to explore," Williams said. "It will bring to children and their caregivers an awareness of the importance of the polar region and that even here in South Carolina, we are connected."

Williams, with the help of USC undergraduates, will guide the children through experiments and activities that show the diversity and importance of the regions.

Children will construct a room-sized puzzle of both poles to begin their exploration. They can strap on a pair of albatross wings and imitate the giant bird's 47-day journey around Antarctica.

They also can try on a special blubber glove which shows how the layer of fat insulates polar bears, penguins and other animals against cold water.

And speaking of polar bears, the real thing will be making an appearance at Science Jam -- sort of. "Snowy," a polar bear shot by arctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd, will be on display. It's on loan from the Governor's School for Science and Math.

Another activity will explain the different types of ice -- sheet ice, floating ice, glaciers, icebergs -- and its impact on the environment. "We will look at the effects of melting ice," Williams said. "It is a very important topic here in South Carolina, because many of our beaches are eroding due to rising sea levels."

This chilly Science Jam is just one of many to come. Williams, an oceanographer and arctic researcher, is involved with the International Polar Year project, which will bring together scientists from more than 60 countries to conduct 200 polar research projects. This is the fourth polar year; the first was held from 1882 to 1883.

In 2004, Williams pioneered an entire year of arctic learning with Go Polar! a special collaboration between USC's Honors College and EdVenture.

"As more data comes in from International Polar Year, I will introduce more programming," he said. "It's back to the theme of cool science in the poles."

Reach Derrick at (803) 771- 8640.


How much do you know?

True or false: Polar bears and penguins live together.

False: Polar bears live in the arctic, while penguins live in places like the Galapagos and Antarctica.

What color is a polar bear's skin? A.) pink B.) black or C.) white

B.) A polar bear's skin is black, which allows it to absorb heat from the sun.

How many clams can a walrus eat in one sitting? A.) 500 B.) 1,500 or C.) 4,000

C.) The ivory-tusked sea mammals can scarf down 4,000 clams for one meal!

How does the fur of sea otters, caribou and reindeer keep them warm? A.) it is really thick B.) it is coated in oil or C.) it traps air

C.) The animal's fur traps air, which insulates them from the cold.

What bird is closest in size to the arctic puffin? A.) pigeon B.) crow or C.) bald eagle

A.) Puffins are roughly the size of a pigeon but weigh twice as much.

-- Arctic Studies Center, Smithsonian Institution


"Family Night"

WHEN: 5-8 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: EdVenture, 211 Gervais St.

COST: $6.95-$8.95

INFORMATION: (803) 779-3100 or []