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Field science: water sampling

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“There’s no point in doing oceanography if you don’t know what the temperature and salinity are doing. It sets the scene for all the other measurements and samples you take,” remarks Dr Helen Findlay.

We are out in the boat again on Kongsfjorden, the inlet running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Kongsbreen glacier and edging past the science village of Ny Ålesund.

It is easy to forget that the ocean is not just a massive bathtub, but contains different layers of water with different properties at different depths. Internal waves ripple through it and internal rivers run through our seas and oceans. There are two main instruments used for water sampling and they allow scientists to map the water column.

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The first instrument is a niskin bottle. To the untrained eye, it looks like a length of drainpipe with elasticated ends. The niskin bottle has been used for sampling in the polar waters since 1910, when it was designed by Fritjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup.

The bottle is lowered into the cold dark waters of the fjord on the winch, ends held back, to the desired sampling depth. At each waypoint along the fjord, Helen would take samples at a variety of depths, surface, 15 metres, 25 metres, etc. When the niskin bottle is at the desired depth, a small brass weight, known as a ‘messenger’ is sent down the wire to snap the ends closed and capture a sample of seawater at specific depths.

This is then drawn back to the surface and carefully decanted into obsessively labelled bottles. Helen is studying the carbonate and nutrient (e.g. nitrates and phosphates) content of the water samples. Helen adds mercuric chloride to the samples, which kills any microorganisms, to ensure that the levels of carbonate do not change after sampling has take place.

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The other instrument that is used is a CTD, standing for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. Again lowered over the side of the boat using a winch, the CTD is used to create a profile of the water column and its important physical properties.

These samples and data sets will then be analysed later to give Helen and the team a better understanding of the waters of Kongsfjorden.

Real science: searching for krill

The science team are investigating the impact that ocean acidification might have on the krill population in the Arctic. Investigating small marine invertebrates at the bottom of the food chain is important as these lay the foundation for all the larger life in the marine environment here.

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The first step for the research is to find the krill. Then in the next days and weeks they will be exposed to different pH levels, replicating potential future changes caused by ocean acidification. The first couple of trawls hadn’t been great, and the team need between 350-400 individuals to make sure that the sample size is large enough.

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The support team at King’s Bay (the managing company for the science bases at Ny Alesund) had a boat ready at short notice, and so with Helen, Piero and Theresa, we headed out into the waters of Kongsfjorden. It was eerily calm, and still light from 6.30pm through to 9.30pm to search for krill. The first two trawls yielded a few, thirty at best, but the last has given the science team a decent batch. There is a fair bit of luck involved as no one on the boat was an excellent krill fisher.

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The krill were carefully collected from the net and placed in sample boxes to be transported back to the lab. Over the next few days, we’ll be following the science experiments.

See Digital Explorer resource bank for more classroom resources and background on ocean acidification.

Flying north

The Arctic is a long way away both physically and in the lands of the imagination. From the Digital Explorer offices in London to the science base at Ny Alesund is a one and a half day journey, flying via Oslo and then to the Svalbard archipelago and a night in the town of Longyearbyen.

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At this time of year, with the Arctic sun not due to set again until the end of August, the journey is odder still. Growing up in temperate climates like the UK, I have etched on my mind that the North is cold and sunless, dark days and nights and endless winter. Likewise, the sun is something that rises in the East and sets in the West, transcribing a high arc through dawn, noon and dusk.

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The flight from Oslo left towards nine in the evening and the sun had already set. But flying north over the land then sea, the sun got brighter and brighter as we neared midnight. This was so contrary to all my experience. Flying north towards the sun.

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We look forward to having you with us on the #FrozenOceansLive journey as we share life and science with schools around the world.

New multimedia web app launched

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Digital Explorer has just launched a new multimedia web app, the [de] Student Player. The web app hosts 100s of photos, videos and graphics from a variety of expeditions and projects around the world. The [de] Student Player is designed to be used on desktops, laptops and tablet computers.

It is designed both for front of classroom use by teachers and independent learning for students.

Media items are grouped around themes relating to the resources…

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And are labelled using common hashtags both for curriculum subjects and topics…

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Clicking on a media item shows additional information – great for that extra background on a new species or for student-led learning…

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When photos and videos are added to the lesson area, they can then be played full-screen for perfectly personalised lessons…

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Oh and did we say it’s free?

Create Share and Explore

Here at Digital Explorer we are always looking for new ways to encourage a more interactive learning experience.
Today we have been playing around with Thinglink.

Thinglink is a free website that helps you create and discover rich images. Every image can be linked to create a pathway for information. This way of tying together information in a creative and interactive way makes Thinglink a perfect tool to be used in education.
So we thought we would give it a go…

Thinglink is a simple tool that enables a fun and explorative way of learning.

Its free to sign up. All you need is an email address/ twitter account. There is also a section specifically designed for education which enables you to store an unlimited number of images. This means you can always save your creations for next year!

1) So the first step is to select an image that you want to create as your base. This can be a graph, a map, or a classroom display.

2) Once you’ve chosen your image you can upload it from your hard drive, facebook, flickr or a URL. Once your image is uploaded you can give it a title.

3) So you’ve got your picture and a title, now you can start editing. Click on the element of your image that you want to link. Then you can copy and paste a URL to link it to an online resource, article or another image. Bellow this box there is a description box, you can use this box to explain the link to the image, or include facts and information.

4) The top left hand corner of the image box shows a search bar where you can link in videos, photos and music on your image.

5) Once your finished editing remember to save and then you can share your image on many different social media websites. You can also email your image or copy and paste the link into a PowerPoint and use in conjunction with your lesson. Simple!

It’s definitely worth checking out the browse function in the top right hand of the screen. You can search for specific images that relate to your lesson if you don’t want to create your own or just need a few ideas.

Thinglink enables teachers to create imaginative and unique experiences. This can be done through the annotation of graphs, or embedding the images into student blogs. Alternatively Thinglink could be used in lessons or as homework for students to design and demonstrate their own personal understanding of a topic.

Maybe we should have lobbied for wonder and not sustainability…

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“Why do you want to go back to the Arctic if it’s so cold and difficult?”

A very good question.

During a wonderful session with Hackney Pirates, an amazing after-school youth group, round the corner from the Digital Explorer office, I had recounted tales of life on the Catlin Arctic Survey, and this question caused me to reflect.

“Because on a still day the air is a cloud of fairy dust, like walking through a cloud of speckled diamonds, and when it snows cartoon flakes settle on your many layers of clothing, their perfect symmetry lasting a lifetime of seconds before dissolving. The light bends and shimmers, inverted rainbows cradle the sun and at night its never-setting rays turn the blown snow candy-floss shades. It’s a land of magic and mystery and nowhere else I have been compares.”

I am more careful now not to speak of the possible destruction of these fragile ecosystems when with primary school aged pupils. The schemes of work we now produce on the Arctic and soon the coral reef, leave the threats to the end. In this move, I have been much influenced by the work of David Sobel’s ‘Beyond Ecophobia’, George Monbiot’s ‘Feral’ and David Louv’s ‘Last Child in the Woods’.

During the hiatus of debate around the new curriculum and specifically the clamours for explicit teaching about sustainability, maybe we got it wrong. I don’t want to have to share today’s news of rapid decline in coral reefs or the Gazprom vs Greenpeace conflict in the Russian Arctic with primary school children and lay at their feet the burden of creating a better world.

I believe that there should be more place for wonder and that perversely, the new science curriculum, which many groups aimed to change (including Digital Explorer) provides these opportunities. With its emphasis on the local, on nature found in the school grounds, of growing and observing plants of understanding the life cycles of the creatures found under rocks or on the seashore, there is much we can work with.

It is unlikely we would have got ‘wonder’ into the curriculum, just as it was unlikely that sustainability would have been a core theme. But we have the chance now to subvert and support.

Subvert the proposed rigour into wonder and support all those primary school teachers in creating those moments of wonder for their pupils. Sustainability can wait and maybe the ‘adults’ could show some leadership before pushing the need to change on our children.

With all the talk of ecosystem services, do we lose track of magic? Let’s fight for wonder in the classroom.

EMSEA Conference 2013 presentation

Here are the slides for the presentation given by Jamie B-D at the EMSEA conference in Plymouth…

Bringing London Zoo To You

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Skype in the Classroom- Bringing London Zoo to you

Digital Explorer has teamed up with Skype to provide a better educational experience. We can bring the world to your classroom.

One of our most recent Digital Explorer and Skype collaborations was broadcast from the Zoological Society London. In the depths of the rainforest enclosure at 7am there was one of Digital Explorers good friends Ollie Steeds, and the zoo keeper Lucy. Ollie was discussing the rainforest and his experiences as an explorer. Lucy told the class about her experiences with the animals and talked about adaption. This lesson was being held in a classroom 17000 Km’s away near Melbourne. The students at St Agatha’s primary were able to ask questions and engage with educators from across the world.

Skype has the ability to connect the world and therefore goes hand in hand with Digital Explorers mission to educate young people on global issues. St Agatha’s primary school near Melbourne had the opportunity to connect with experts that they may not have had the chance of meeting without the use of Skype.

Skype has the ability to create real world links.

If you would like to book a speaker for your school you can do it on the Skype in the classroom website, where there are many of Digital Explorer’s friends. There are accompanying resources available on our website.

We would like to say a big thank you to the Zoological Society London, St Agatha’s, Skype and Ollie.

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Join Us for a Rhino Event on 18th September

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The Changing Face of the Rhino – Wednesday 18th September at 7:00pm

Mantis Foundation lecture auction

The Changing Face of the Rhino is a fundraising event that Digital Explorer is proud to support. The event is an inspiring account of the living trauma of rhino poaching. The event gives focus to how humanity can be inspired, and to reshape attitudes towards environmental crisis. You can book tickets online.

Here at Digital Explorer we have got 50 tickets available at half price (£10). This fundraising event is an excellent opportunity to get students actively engaged with conservation issues. The event has a number of relevant speakers including an opening by Bear Grylls, an introduction from William Travers OBE, and a lecture from Dr. William Fowlds, with closing words from Virginia McKenna OBE.

These tickets are for teachers and students only and are available on a first come first serve basis. If you are interested please contact Flora at Digital Explorer.

The Changing Face of the Rhino fundraising event would suit GCSE and A level geography students. There are accompanying resources available from Digital Explorer entitled the Voices of Conservation.

The Voices of Conservation Collection focuses on issues of rhino conservation in South Africa. The collection includes booklets, lesson plans, facts sheets and assembly resources. There is a fantastic competition courtesy of Voices of conservation that offers the opportunity to win a journey of a life time, and be part of a conservation mission. To be a part of this amazing opportunity download the voices of conservation poster available on the Digital Explorer website. These resources are based around the work of Dr. William Fowlds and others, and help to bring issues of conservation to the classroom. For full access to these resources go to Digital Explorer website.
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Building a tech stack for global learning

Interesting event at the Institute of Education about global learning. It turned out to be a debate about development education and created a dichotomy between values and knowledge driven models. The discussion got into the nature of knowledge for a while and it was time to escape. My brain is too small to cope. So instead, I put together a few slides describing what I believe to be a minimum technology stack for global learning.

This is the basis for the model that Digital Explorer will be working to resource and provide CPD around. Thoughts, feedback and ideas appreciated as always!

This is apparently getting towards Education 3.0. Very exciting if you like that kind of thing.