Elaine Wynn Elementary School
Clark County School District
3455 Erva #109
Las Vegas, NV 89117 USA
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Technology transfer; Volunteer contributions of time and energy
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Documentation; Other – Complete text of Antarctica letters are available via anonymous ftp from ftp.nevada.edu in the /pub/ccsd/ANTARCTICA directory.
Story Site (if other than location listed above):
Elaine Wynn Elementary School
Las Vegas, Nevada
Casey Research Station
Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nevada
Elaine Wynn Elementary School, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bruce Daley, Teacher, Elaine Wynn Elementary School
Paul Smith, Doctoral student, Latrobe University, Melbourne, Australia, who was temporarily assigned to Casey Research Station in Antarctica
NevadaNet and the System Computing Services of the University and Community College System of Nevada (UCCSN)
Objectives of the Project:
- Using Computer Mediated Communication, the student will be able to communicate with Paul Smith, a researcher at Casey Research Station in Antarctica to explore geography, animal, and plant life of continent of Antarctica.
- Student will gain a unique understanding of role of computer mediated communication in obtaining and sharing research information.
- Student will gain understanding of geography, weather conditions, animal and plant life, and unique way of life on continent of Antarctica.
Student will gain understanding of unique continent
Student will develop a sense of inquiry in Science, Understanding of Internet, and Computer Mediated Communications
Student will be introduced to Data Collection and Observation Techniques.
Technology Transfer-Through the use of listserv lists and anonymous ftp, materials were distributed world-wide.
Paul Smith,Latrobe University, Melbourne, Australia (temporarily assigned to Casey Research Station, Antarctica
Bruce Daley, Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nevada
Third Grade Students, Elaine Wynn Elementary School, Las Vegas, Nevada
Paul Smith, a 24 year old doctoral student from Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, was recently assigned to Casey Research Station on the continent of Antarctica, for the purpose of assisting in the installation of a radar used to study the ionosphere.
While stationed at the Research facility, Smith, using electronic mail via the Internet, described his experiences of living, working, and exploring the continent of Antarctica to the third grade class of Bruce Daley, a teacher at Elaine Wynn Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada. The electronic communications from Antarctica were distributed world wide on the Kidsnet and Ednet Listserv Groups, as well as placed on an anonymous file transfer site at the System Computing Services of UCCSN. This unique distribution gave researchers, students, and other interested parties throughout the world the opportunity to share in the experience. Questions from students were sent to Paul Smith from a 6th Grade Special Education class in Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as a 4th Grade student from Vancouver, Washington via the electronic highway network.
On December 28, 1992, Paul Smith wrote, “We rocked into the harbour where Casey is on Boxing Day at about midnight in broad daylight! Weird experience, the sun sets but it never really gets very dark.”
Paul then describes to the children a field training exercise, necessary for safe survival in the harsh environment.
“Field training was on the Thursday and Friday where we learnt how to climb and descend icy slopes, slide down them and then try and stop (self arrest) using our trusty ice axes. We were back at Casey for lunch then went out in the Hagglunds, which are a wonderful Swedish invention that looks essentially like a red box on two tank treads. This is the best way for travelling across the snow with lots of people and equipment. The Hagglunds took us out to a camping spot about 3km away from Casey where we set up the snow tents, and cooked some food, and checked in by radio. It was a beautiful evening, lots of light, clear skies and no wind so some of us decided to go for a ski across the sea ice of O’Brian’s Bay that we were camping near. Out there, surrounded by the cliffs of snow, it was so quiet and there was just this amazing feeling while skiing across the flat surface.”
Paul recounts to the children the view from inside a crevasse and an aerial view of the Australian Research Station.
“…It was like another world down there, cool and blue with icicles of all sizes hanging down and making lots of dripping sounds (it was another sunny day). We found out it was quite deep too when one of our party lost his helmet (he claimed it was strapped on tight) and down it went out of sight. It was rescued later in a practice SAR (search and rescue) exercise.”
“…What can I say, the coastline from the air was spectacular, hundreds of icebergs floating slowly out to sea and we made a few low passes over Casey. The landing “strip” is prepared packs snow up on the plateau above the station they call S1, so the airplane lands on skis.”
Going on a “jolly”, the Antarctic word for field trip, Paul recounts to the children an exciting trip with research biologists.
“On Sunday the biologists wanted to go out and collect some lichen and other specimens of flora (limited to mosses and algae basically) from some of the islands down the coast. To get there they use Zodiacs, which are those air filled dinghies that have outboard engines and are the greatest way to travel over water.”
“…On arriving at the first island the bios were off looking at slimy green patches and the rest of us went to ‘play’ with the penguins.”
“…When the bios had finished we went out to an ice floe to have a look at a Weddel seal that was lying out in the sun. Mark steered us in for a closer look and just when we were going to turn off the engine quit (we’d been having some problems with it all day). Since I was at the bow of the zodiac I got a very close-up view indeed, let me tell you seal breath is not a real nice thing to smell. … after exchanging names and addresses with Mr Seal we fired up the engine and got out of there.”
In an electronic mail message on Feb 5, 1993, Paul relates a unique variation on the classic subject, “What I did on my summer holiday”.
“From January 22nd until the 31st I was lucky to get a trip inland to a place called Law Dome.”
“…at almost the top of the Dome there is a station, (Dome Summit Station, not at the summit either, but rather about ten metres lower that it) where a group of glaciologists from the Antarctic Division are drilling down through the ice and bringing back up the sections of ice for study.”
“…Now in a magnetically screwed up place like Antarctica, where magnetic north points to geographic west, you may ask how do navigate around someplace that has no obvious landmarks? Well each of the Hagglunds is equipped with a radar and at periodic spots along the route to various places there are metal drums, or canes with metal on them. On a clear day they are easily visible in the distance and in bad weather, especially white-out, the radar picks them up.”
“…after departing Blythe Junction, where we had an interesting night because we had one less sleeping bag than people with us, we headed on to a place called S2. Now S2 is a lot more interesting than the name implies. As I understand it, it is an old under-ground (underice?) base built by the Americans who were also into digging up ice in the 60’s. At the surface there is just a hatch with a ladder going down into what looks like a bottomless pit. That’s fixed by a fluro light and a generator at the top and down we went. The descent to the first level is about 15 meters then horizontal passages branch off in a few directions. The width and height of the passages is quite cramped because the ice is always moving and getting compressed by snow accumulation, so it’s quite natural to feel as if a thousand ton of ice is coming down to crush you as you crawl along.”
“…Crawling along we saw the accommodation areas, a bit small unless you like your nose an inch from the ceiling, and there were still shelves with tinned food and various items stocked on them. The best part was the shaft where the digging had been. It was about 30m deep and we had to go by torch at that stage so it was mostly dark while climbing down the ladders. …We them made good speed getting back out again since the torch was starting to fail.”
Paul explains to the children the importance of studying the ice cores, essential to the drilling project.
“The main reason for going to all this trouble and distance to drill ice is because it gives a great picture of what’s been going on in the past few thousand years in earth’s climate and atmosphere. If a big volcano erupted at some stage then in a year or so the ash and acid from sulfur dioxide will eventually work it’s way down to Antarctica and come down with the snow falls.”
“Not long after I arrived the wind and snow picked up and soon we were in a full on blizzard. Stepping outside meant you had to get into so much gear that it looked like you were going for a space walk. Goggles were necessary but they fogged up easily and that froze so it was impossible to see far with them and any exposed skin got frozen quite quickly in direct wind, as everyone discovers when they go outside. For safety, blizz lines are tied between buildings so you grab on to those for guidance. Visibility did get down to less than 5 metres and there were times we couldn’t see the next van from the kitchen window (the window was also called the TV and “reception” i.e. the view to the next van, varied depending on how much snow was in the picture).”
On Feb 26, 1993, Paul reports to the students, “The weather has been getting more overcast and windy but the big blizz which was meant to happen on Wednesday was a fizzer, a bit of snow and that was it. The temperature is hovering around zero and below. Last weekend was the last chance to go on an overnight jolly so 14 of us went down the coast to Peterson Island.”
“… After setting up the tents those of us on Peterson went for a walk around the island which included visiting a mark left by a US survey expedition back in 1947. There was a capsule with a visitors book, a proclamation that this island etc was claimed by America (which it isn’t anymore) and a US flag with 48 stars on it …”
In conclusion, this unique learning experience would not be possible if it were not for access to the world wide telecommunications network. The children have received a unique look at Antarctica, research, and study, due to access to the Internet.