LA PLATA, Md. (Feb. 19, 2009)—Deanna Wheeler, a science teacher at J.C. Parks Elementary School, is about to embark on the educational experience of a lifetime. She said she always wanted to bring "real life experiences to her teaching" and she will be given the opportunity to do so next month after she spends 21 days aboard an icebreaker in the Bering Sea with scientists as part of the PolarTREC program.
The PolarTREC program, which stands for Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating in the Arctic, is an educational research experience that is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. During her polar expedition, Wheeler will participate in polar research such as examining the food chain for walruses and eiders, to testing the water and examining the sediment at the bottom of the sea for living organisms.
Wheeler is excited about the experience and is looking forward to learning as much as she can. "To have the opportunity to share real life research from an icebreaker in the Bering Sea will be an awesome experience," Wheeler said.
Wheeler will be able to share her experiences on board the USCGC Healy with other educators, scientists and students through Internet tools including online teacher and research journals, message boards and podcasts. Wheeler said she will not only be able to share the experiences with her students at Parks, but she will be able to share data and her experiences with other Charles County Public Schools students through the online tools available on board the icebreaker.
"If students at another school are working on a specific project in which I have data for, they can view daily reports that we will upload to the Internet. I look forward to helping connect two vastly different worlds and will communicate it with the use of technology back to our students and the community," Wheeler said.
Parks Principal Kristin Shields said the entire school is looking forward to Wheeler's trip. "Our whole school is very excited about Mrs. Wheeler's adventure. This experience will benefit the school because she will bring resources such as video conferencing with a partner school in Alaska," Shields said.
Wheeler said the application process was rigorous as she was one of 250 teachers nationwide to apply for participation in a program that only accepts 12 teachers per year. She departs for her experience in Kodiak, Alaska on March 10 and returns to Dutch Harbor, Alaska March 31. She trains the next few weeks to prepare for the experience.
In celebration of the International Polar Year, 2007-2009, PolarTREC provided more than 40 teachers the opportunity to work with a team or researchers in the Arctic or Antarctic. To follow Wheeler's daily logs, or for more information about the application process and PolarTREC program, visit http://www.polartrec.com/ .