Technology in the classroom Students link to Antarctica

Sheri Byrd
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***For more than 50 Kaiserslautern American Middle School sixth-graders, the plight of hundreds of Antarctic Adelie penguins, now greatly distanced from their feeding waters by the break-away B-15A iceberg, became a matter of personal interest.

The students, all members of Rhonda Pray’s science classes, participated in a live audio link Feb. 17 with former teacher John Deaton, currently participating in Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and Arctic program at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Twenty other schools in the United States listened in as the KAMS students presented Mr. Deaton with their questions.

“We’ve been studying Antarctica since November,” said Mrs. Pray. “The students have sent and received numerous e-mails from Mr. Deaton. Then, in the week leading to the event, we concentrated on current events in the region, including the Adelie penguins and the break-away iceberg.”

Mr. Deaton, a former resident of the KMC, works interactively with students all over the world to teach them about the geography and biology of Antarctica. While living in the KMC, he was a volunteer at Kaiserslautern American Elementary School.

***image2***Although Mr. Deaton regularly corresponds with students via his Web site, the live audio link was the first with a Department of Defense Dependent School, prompted by the in-depth questions Mrs. Pray’s classes sent in advance.

The session began with a digital slide presentation giving the students an overview of operations at McMurdo Station, including the dangers of ice cracks and crevasses, a runway on sea ice, and the presence of Waddell seals and curious Emperor penguins.
After the photo slides, students lined up for the classroom speaker phone to ask questions.

Some of the questions and answers were:
•What are scientists in Antarctica doing to help the Adelie penguins? Nothing. The humans cannot interfere with the natural processes, so the penguins are struggling to reach their feeding waters, and their chicks are starving.
•How thick is the sea ice in Antarctica? Up to three meters thick.
•How fast do ice-breaker ships go? Usually about 10 miles per day.
•What’s the hardest thing about living in Antarctica during the summer (northern winter)? Having no night, stars, trees or grass.