CReSIS Makes Impact at NSTA Conference


By Ashley Thompson
Fall 2010

Brandon Gillette

Photo 1: Brandon Gillette presents on teaching Remote Sensing in high school classrooms.

CReSIS geology professor Leigh Stearns found herself in front of a somewhat unique audience on October 28 at the regional NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) meeting in Kansas City, Mo. Accustomed to standing in front of her academic peers with years of experience in the field of glaciology, Stearns' presentation took on a much more exotic feel in front of nearly 30 secondary science teachers. Photos of Stearns and other scientists exploring crevasses of East Greenland's Helheim glacier and her explanations of the use of GPS technology to understand the glacier's behavior captivated the audience.

For the first time, CReSIS K-12 Education Coordinator Cheri Hamilton and graduate student Brandon Gillette brought both a CReSIS engineering student and a professional glaciologist with them to present at the regional NSTA conference. While Stearns opened for Hamilton's presentation, which included the perennial favorite Glacier Goo, Victor Jara-Olivares, PhD candidate in electrical engineering, presented alongside Gillette on remote sensing applications at the Poles.

Leigh Stearns

Photo 2: Leigh Stearns explains the propteries and characteristics of CReSIS's Glacier Goo.

"It made our presentations more authentic," Hamilton said of Stearns' and Jara-Olivares' presence. "Normally we present the science ourselves, but hearing it first-hand from the CReSIS researchers definitely brought the science to life."

The CReSIS team presented two talks during the two-day conference: "Glacier Dynamics: The Science and the Activities," and "Remote Sensing: Mapping the Ice Sheets in Greenland and Antarctica." However, the CReSIS reach at NSTA went beyond these two 30-minute sessions. Riverton High School (Kansas) teachers Cynita Jones and Jayne Jones, who participated in CReSIS's 2008 "The Heat is On!" climate change education workshop also presented at NSTA, drawing from CReSIS-related material that had been a hit in their own classrooms. And Gary Wesche, a 2009 PolarTREC teacher who accompanied a CReSIS research team to WAIS Divide in Antarctica last winter, gave a presentation entitled, “Bringing Glaciers into the Classroom.”

"It was neat to see the impact CReSIS has had on some of the presenters," Gillette said. A former high school science teacher himself, Gillette has attended the NSTA conference since his undergraduate days.

Hamilton and Gillette also passed out the new CReSIS Climate Change DVD and gathered more e-mail addresses for the Education ListServ, which keeps teachers across the country updated on CReSIS and climate change-related workshops, presentations, conferences, and opportunities for students.

NSTA holds three regional conferences per year. At each of the events, science teachers present on research or lesson plans in an effort to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching.