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7 August, 2002

Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn

While my Hollywood hero Indiana Jones might take off to an exotic locale with only his signature whip and hat, gearing up for Antarctic research requires a little more preparation. Training for the Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) program begins more than a year in advance with "summer school" at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover, NH.

The TEA program, funded by the National Science Foundation and facilitated by CRREL, the American Museum of Natural History, and Rice University, pairs K-12 teachers with polar researchers. As an active member of a research team I will spend about two months in Antarctica conducting fieldwork and acting as a liaison between scientists and learners of all ages. To prepare for my trip, I am learning about the goals of the TEA program, former TEA research projects, and the roles of support agencies like Raytheon, the company that will help me arrange my transportation, computer technology, and the most important gear -- my extreme cold clothes!

Yesterday's CRREL tour of a -20F "cold room" gave me a taste of my upcoming polar experience and a new appreciation for proper polar clothes! The "cold room" is a variable temperature storage space that houses a variety of cold region materials. While CRREL supports scientific research across a wide range of disciplines such as geology, biology, medicine, astrophysics, and climatology, its prime directive is two-fold. As one of four U.S. Army Corps of Engineering Labs, CRREL supports military personnel working in cold areas as well as researchers concerned with local and polar projects.

Further exploration of the CRREL facility reveals a bee-hive of activity. Exciting new research includes the development of an economic, anti-freeze concrete that can be used for construction in cold climates like Alaska and Bosnia. In other corners of the facility, engineers tinker busily with scale models of arctic ice sheets and frozen rivers to test how ice exerts pressure on submarines, bridge supports, retaining walls, and offshore oil rigs.

With my head spinning after three days of fantastic polar presentations, I am looking forward to tomorrow's field safety course. Stay tuned for exciting details from "Learn to Return."

Figure 1 - US Army Corps of Engineering Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in Hanover, NH.

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