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Sending a Little Piece of High School South to the North Pole

By Danielle Buggé, Physics and Environmental Science Teacher, West Windsor-Plainsboro HS South, New Jersey

During the winter of 2023, roughly 70 Environmental Science students participated in the Float Your Boat Arctic Buoy outreach project to study the rapidly changing arctic climate. As a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Svalbard alumni, the Arctic is special and an integral part of our curriculum. I was excited to share my passion for the Arctic region with my students and provide them with an opportunity to engage in authentic research. Before decorating boats, our students first listened to stories and engaged in a series of activities to learn about the region. The premise for our conversations and studies was that the Arctic is currently warming four times faster than the rest of the planet, and that these changes have an impact on our lives 3500 miles away in New Jersey. We first investigated how different surfaces warmed and cooled and learned about albedo.

Then, we analyzed and interpreted data to graph changes to the arctic sea ice extent over the last 40 years. We also explored changes to glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet and the effects of rapidly melting freshwater on the arctic ecosystem.

To better understand the motion of the weather buoys and boats, we performed a convection current investigation that modeled thermohaline circulation. We also explored how rubber ducks spilled in the Pacific Ocean ended up in Europe and connected this to the possible path our boats might take if they are picked up by arctic current! All of these activities better prepared our students to understand the International Arctic Buoy initiative and why their boats would be deployed at the top of the world in Utqiaġvik, Alaska. Finally, our students decorated their boats and sent a little bit of South (hopefully!) to the North Pole.

West Windsor Plainsboro High School South with their wooden boats in a heart for the Arctic

While our boats were in transit, we revisited the claim that changes to the arctic region affect weather and climate patterns in New Jersey. Students used all of the evidence gathered over the past six weeks to create posters detailing their reasoning in support of this claim. We held a gallery walk where the students had the opportunity to share their reasoning with their peers. (View the April 4, 2023 deployment of the boats)

On April 18, some of our students had the opportunity to connect with Sarah Johnson, Float Your Boat Coordinator from Wild Rose Education and learn about the successful deployment.

Thank you to Float Your Boat for this incredible opportunity and we cannot wait to follow our boats on their journey!


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