8 June, 2001
Glen and Spring flew out to Atqastk this AM. (Atqastk is the Inupiat spelling; the English phonetic spelling is Atkasook .) The flight is scheduled to leave at 8AM but with the weather, schedules are an approximation here. Atqastk is a small village about 100 miles south of here, population 500, and flying is the only way to get there. Roads are primitive here because of the extreme climate, neither concrete nor black top are used because of frost heaving. The materials of choice are sand and gravels, which are dug locally and constantly spread on the road surfaces. There is heavy equipment all over the town. Caterpillar tractors make their presence known, if they are not spreading gravel, or clearing snow in the winter, they are pulling vehicles out of the mud! And mud is the name of the season now with the spring thaw. Every building has an anteroom here called a "kunyshack" (spelling?), which is a small (5 by 5 ft.) enclosed area where boots are taken off before you enter the house or building. This cuts down on the amount of snow or mud, which is brought inside.
With those two gone south I joined Ali and Maggie and went to school for the day. They are up here from SDSU teaching elementary summer school to fifty, 1st through 5th graders. This was a great way to meet some of the children of the village. As you can see from the pictures below, kids are kids the world over. They are bright and inquisitive and have a hard time sitting still for any length of time. Ali and Maggie are in the school teaching science through the PISCES Program, a program that places undergraduate, science majors in elementary classrooms in San Diego and Barrow right now. Why in Barrow I know you are asking? The PI of the PISCES Program is Walt Oechel who is the PI of the research project I was paired with. Walt Oechel has been doing research in the Barrow area since the 1970's and placing teachers in the schools here was a logical step in the expanding of his program.
The Barrow students are studying the rainforest and you can see from the initial drawing one of the students did, personal experience counts for a lot. Her rainforest has trees. the only trees up here are Christmas trees imported for Christmas, and a caribou! There are many birds here in the arctic but most are dark colors, brown, white and greys, so constructing a colorful, tropical bird was odd at first and thought the kids knew about insects through books, first hand knowledge was rare. There are few insects here, with the exception of mosquitoes in the summer; so many of them have never seen the insects they were constructing.
The classroom has been turned into a virtual rainforest: birds are hanging from vines, which are strung across the room, insects are pasted everywhere, there is a waterfall in one corner. You can tell by the kids' faces when they enter the room that they are very proud of their work. After school we headed off to the airport to pick up Glen and Spring who landed back in Barrow at 4:30. They had gone over to Atqastk to check on the eddy tower (collects weather data) and found it not operating. Some repairs are necessary and the woman who is in charge of that parcticular one will be in next week. They brought the storage boxes back with the data that was there and downloaded them in the lab. From there we drove to one of two local sushi restaurants in town for dinner. I am still amazed at the prices. If you double the price normally of the lower states you are about right. I ordered hot tea and wonton soup for $13.00; it was delicious!
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