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Polar Predictions from Cedar Falls

Submitted by Dr. Ben Olson, Teacher at North Cedar Elementary, Cedar Falls, Iowa



5th and 6th grade Extended Learning Program (ELP) students at Hansen and North Cedar Schools in Cedar Falls, IA participated in Float Your Boat during 2023/2024 school year. Learning about the Polar regions, and the Arctic in particular became the first big unit of the school year. This was a great second dose of polar learning for these Iowa students - last year they were selected to be on a live Zoom with researchers in Antarctica who are studying humpback whale populations in the Southern Ocean. Now, these same students turned their attention to the northern polar regions. 


They learned about a number of topics related to polar regions. Initially, students took time to research anything that struck their interest about the Arctic, but then we narrowed our focus to polar currents and their effects on the polar ice. The ELP students used movements of past deployments and the existence of known currents to predict where their boats might end up, both from a deployment from the north of Alaska and for a deployment from the North Pole. Predictions range from Iceland to Norway to Scotland and beyond when considering a North Pole deployment. Canada or Greenland, or stuck in the Beaufort Gyre were the top picks if the boats left from Alaska. 


Then, students took the time to decorate their boats in some manner that represented themselves. Some boats were even decorated with "Hello" in a number of different languages, trying to cover any place that they may end up. Overall, the weeks we spent learning about the Arctic region provided some great new learning and the students look forward to eventually tracking their boats later this year.  


Sample of the students' work

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