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Joining the students on board

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, October 26, 2011

High school science teacher Jennith Peart returned home to Baker Lake earlier this month after taking part in the Schools on Board Program.

NNSL photo/graphic

Science teacher Jennith Peart returned home to Baker Lake earlier this month after spending 11 days at sea on the CCGS Amundsen as part of the Students on Board Program. - photo courtesy of Jennith Peart

Nunavut student Kendra Bolt of Kugluktuk also made the trip.

Schools on Board is an outreach program run by ArcticNet, based out of The Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources at Winnipeg's University of Manitoba.

The program helps bridge Arctic research with science education in high schools across Canada, increases awareness of issues related to climate change in Canada, and educates young Canadians about the challenges and career opportunities of Arctic research.

Participating schools send students and teachers to the Arctic on board the CCGS Amundsen for an educational experience completely integrated into the research activities of the ArcticNet science team.

Peart said the group boarded the CCGS Amundsen in Kugluktuk and spent about 11 days on the ship travelling to the Beaufort Sea.

She said there were two distinct parts involved in the journey.

"One was the scientists' presentations to the students on their research," said Peart.

"They were all excellent, covering everything from the history of Arctic exploration to organisms on the bottom of the sea and some of the mapping technology they were testing.

"The second was participating in the research to deploy nets and different pieces of equipment to get samples.

"The students also got to use a Rosette, which is a water sampling and profiling piece of equipment that uses sensors to gather information on water temperature, oxygenation and chlorophyll."

The group numbered nine students, two teachers, a co-ordinator, photographer and journalist.

Peart was sponsored by the Kivalliq Science Educators' Community (KSEC), and said she couldn't have done it without the support of the KSEC, Kivalliq School Operations and Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School.

She said the scientists on board were impressed by how interested the students were in the various topics.

"They could see the baby scientists within the students, and really encouraged them to get involved and try new things.

"They opened their labs for the kids to conduct all sorts of tests.

"What the students loved most was sorting the benthic samples and finding all sorts of brittle stars, sea urchins and stuff.

"Many of them came away thinking about a career in the Canadian Coast Guard if they don't go into science."

Peart said, as a teacher, the trip showed her how effective hands-on, real-life science can be for kids.

She said hearing about climate change from someone who's spent so much time on Arctic waters also impacted her.

"Capt. Stephane Julien said we'd normally be breaking ice where we were, but, this year, we only passed one very small ice field during the 11 days we were at sea.

"He's witnessed fairly significant changes in the ice patterns during the past decade.

"That was one of the most convincing things I've heard on just how rapidly climate change is affecting ice patterns in the Arctic."

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