A team of scientists including NSSL’s Bob Rabin introduced North Slope Alaska Native students from Barrow, Alaska, and other small villages to weather and climate science through two STEM courses recently. Held on the campus of the Ilisagvik College, the classes were designed for students to explore various disciplines addressing climate change.
During the first session, Rabin presented remotely from Norman, Okla., to students in grades 10 and up. Activities were designed to give students an opportunity to learn about remote observations such as satellites, and how they are used in research and weather forecasting. Topics covered by other scientists included the carbon cycle, land cover changes, radon and permafrost, data visualization and documentation.
During the second course, Rabin presented a full day of activities in Barrow that included satellite basics, observations and weather forecasting for grades 7-9. The students then participated in a contest based on their forecasts of temperature, pressure and wind for the following few days. Tours and hands-on activities were provided at the National Weather Service Weather Office in Barrow (lead by Dave Anderson, Officer in Charge), and at the ESRL/Global Monitoring Division observatory (lead by Matthew Martinsen, Station Chief).
Barrow is located 500 miles north of Fairbanks. The Barrow community and the smaller villages of the North Slope of Alaska depend heavily on subsidence living. “Their connection with the environment is very strong,” Rabin said. “There seems to be a keen awareness and concern for the effects of the weather on food supply, especially whaling and hunting caribou.”
In collaboration with local elders, Rabin hopes to help develop an online course on weather and climate of the North Slope at Ilisagvik College. The course could incorporate some of the traditional ways people predicted and understood the weather and may include installation of a simple weather station at the college.