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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.

EMSEA Conference 2013 presentation

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

Polar Challenge Workshops: bringing the Arctic to your classroom

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Polar Challenge Workshops

Digital Explorer is challenging you! Can your students take on the Polar Challenge?

The polar challenge day engages students to learn more about the importance of this remote region. Create and train your pupils into teams of polar guides, expedition leaders, communications managers and scientists. Plan an itinerary collect data, share the findings and see how many teams survive!

This workshop is suited to ages 5-16, suitable for geography or science students. This activity day comes with accompanying lesson plans, activity sheets, photos and videos. You can download the most relevant resources for your class at the Digital Explorer website.

The Polar Challenge Workshop for primary is a cross curricular set of resources that involves guest speakers coming into the school to discuss life in the Arctic. The activities that take place for the primary polar challenge include making polar sandwiches and a food web mobile.

The polar Challenge workshop for secondary schools is best suited for geography or science students. The focus on this workshop is based around data exercises and expedition life. Guest speakers usually include scientists or people that have travelled to the Arctic.

The Polar challenge days are developed as an off-timetable model for half- or full-days. The polar challenge provides a hands on experimental learning adventure.

For more information on the Polar challenge workshop please visit Digital Explorer.

The full range of resources are available to download now.

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What would your experience curriculum include?

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After an excellent event put on by Earthwatch, Why emotion matters in conservation science, it was a pleasure to talk about how we can help young people have an emotional relationship with nature and the especially the ocean.

‘J’ Nichols talked about a project in El Salvador, where every 10 year old releases a baby turtle on the beach. What an amazing experience, for every single 10 year old to have. And there is a buzz in the years beforehand, children anticipating this rite of passage and connection with nature and the ocean.

In discussions on the National Curriculum in England, we put into law what our young people should know. What would happen if we also enshrined in law the experiences that they are entitled to: spend a night in a tent in the wild, visit the sea, attend a service from a different faith background, grow food (and eat it!).

What would your experience curriculum include?

For the research on this, see the Cornell University study showing the link between adult environmentalism and nature experience before the age of 11. Maybe we should start lobbying for mandatory nature walks and camping for primary school pupils rather than climate change in the science or geography curriculum.

The Ocean talks to Michael Gove

This is the transcript of a conversation between Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education and the Ocean examining the latest draft National Curriculum document.

Michael Gove: I understand you have some concerns about the latest draft curriculum. Let me assure you, to start with, that the programmes of study put forward are designed to present a return to a curriculum that is built on a core of rigorous knowledge.

The Ocean: I can see that you have put a lot of work into this, but I just wanted to point out that I feel a little ignored and at times misrepresented, and…

MG: Let me stop you there. This is a core set of knowledge that every young person should know, schools and teachers are still free to include information they think is relevant to the young people that they teach.

TO: I understand, it’s just that I cover over 70% of the planet’s surface, contain 95% of the living space, 98% of all life is aquatic and I provide at least half the oxygen that you breathe, not to mention a little climate regulation on the side.

MG: Well, we never say that teachers cannot teach about you, and there are several references to the oceans within the documentation. In science for Year 5 (9 year olds), you are mentioned as one of the other habitats that pupils can study, and we believe that 5 and 6 year olds should learn the names of your different basins in geography. Surely that’s enough.

TO: I’m all for rigour and your core plus approach to curriculum planning, and I’ll say again 98% of all life is aquatic. That’s why I was confused to read that in Year 2 Science, young people will be taught that: “find out about and describe the basic needs of animals, including humans, for survival (water, food and air)”. Do you know what happens when you put a fish in air? Then I read every single example of animals that pupils can study, chickens, butterflies, woodlice, frogs, sheep, slugs, worms, spiders, and insects. Yes, there was a cursory mention of fish, but I feel a little let down.

MG: Look. You are mentioned as a habitat that pupils could study. In Year 5 Science, pupils are asked to “compare life cycles of plants and animals in their local environment with other plants and animals around the world (the rainforest, under the oceans, desert areas and in prehistoric times), asking pertinent questions and suggesting reasons for similarities and differences”.

TO: Before tackling the main point you are making, it’s ‘in the ocean’, not ‘under the oceans’. I am not just one habitat, I contain a huge diversity of environments for life: coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, mudflats, estuaries, intertidal zone, sandy shore, rocky shore, mangroves and salt marshes, open surface waters, the open deep sea, vents and seeps, oceanic trenches and seamounts. I don’t see why just because I am mostly unseen and covered by a reflective surface that your new rigorous approach to the curriculum should be so unbalanced.

MG: I think you just need to recognise that most young people’s first encounter with nature will be looking under rocks and finding creepy crawlies, or having the opportunity to grow something in a garden. If you keep on taking this ‘me, me, me’ route, I may have to brand you as an enemy of progress.

TO: I was trying to be nice. You live on an island. No one is ever more than 71 miles from the sea in England. The oceans are vital for the survival of humanity. So here are my demands, as a starter:

  1. include an ocean habitat as a must for primary and secondary school science
  2. correct any factual inaccuracies in the draft curriculum where you completely ignore the oceans and marine science (e.g. the ‘air’ comment above)
  3. do not refer to me as an ‘other’ habitat around the world
  4. give me my proper place when pupils study primary production
  5. within Earth science at Key Stage 3 Science, make sure that pupils know my role in the current composition of the Earth and atmosphere
  6. the production of carbon dioxide and its impact needs to include ocean acidification as well climate change

I’ll come back to you on geography once I’ve calmed down, and just remember I provide half your oxygen. Don’t ignore me or make me angry.

[Editor's note: the ocean was a little upset as you may be able to tell, any comments, corrections or additions from the marine science community welcome. We are looking to arrange further interviews between important global concerns and the Minister, please let us know if you have any recommendations.]

Education blog: How can I calculate my footprint?

I have travelled from London to Sydney to join the Catlin Seaview Survey. It promises to be an amazing experience, learning more about the Great Barrier Reef and coral in general.

Over the next three weeks, I shall be visiting different parts of the reef and speaking to the science teams who are investigating the health of this ecosystem.

One of the areas of investigation is how climate change is affecting the reef and the damage that it can cause. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere affects coral reefs in three main ways:

  • warming oceans can cause ‘coral bleaching’ where the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae breaks down, so that the coral loses a major energy source and can die
  • climate change is also linked to increased storm activity that causes physical damage to the reef
  • more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the oceans, causing ocean acidification and adding to the stress on this fragile environment

It’s a difficult choice. Can I be of benefit to the reef by coming here and helping to communicate its wonders or stay at home and let others do this work?

Can you help in calculating my carbon footprint for this journey so far and if possible compare it to the average annual carbon footprint for the UK?

Here’s how I travelled…

7.5 miles by taxi from my house to Paddington Station

A total of 27 miles by train

10,673 miles by aeroplane from London to Sydney via Singapore

And the last (and nicest) leg by ferry to a part of Sydney called Manly – 7 miles

Awesome Sarah – explorer and educator

We were sad to hear of the extreme weather earlier this year that has delayed  Sarah Outen’s London2London expedition. Sarah had to be rescued by the Japanese Coast Guard after she and her rowing boat were hit by a huge storm in June.

Digital Explorer has been working with Sarah on the education side of things, developing resources and competitions for primary schools and so it was great to read this blog post on her education blog:

Recipe for Adventure Competition: the results

Hello Everyone,

A little while ago we set a competition for L2L Primary Schools to design me a ‘Recipe for Adventure’ – dreaming up a tasty meal that would give me of all the different food groups that I need for adventuring.

London2London HQ received some excellent entries and I have just spent some time getting very hungry and excited at the thought of trying some of the recipes.

Everyone has been spot on in thinking about the food groups I need when I am cycling, or kayaking or rowing – so we have lots of protein for helping me rebuild my muscles, carbohydrates and sugars for giving me energy, vitamins for keeping my skin and gums healthy and all washed down with plenty of water to keep me hydrated.

My favourite entries came from English Martyrs School in Oakham and Mr Kirkland’s Class at Manor School in Didcot. Both schools will receive L2L stickers and some adventuring books, including ‘The Boy who Biked the World’ by Alistair Humprheys and my book ‘ A Dip in the Ocean’. As well as that, I shall be visiting both schools to tell them all about my adventures so far and what treats and surprises I have eaten on the way.

Coming next on the Education Blog…. I shall be sharing some of the stories from my attempt to row across the North Pacific in my boat Gulliver. You may already know – but it didn’t go quite to plan this time.

Happy summer holidays to everyone who is on them already or about to start. Make sure you pack in some adventures!

Cheerio,

Sarah, Nelson, Hercules and Gulliver x

Congratulations to both schools who won.

And sending all our best wishes to Sarah as she prepares to face the challenges of the Pacific again. See this CBBC Newsround clip that really brings home the scale of her ambitions, and do follow her on twitter.

And, Sarah, drop by the Digital Explorer office for a cuppa and a chat next time you’re in town, you’re an inspiration and role model.

EU fishing fleet map

In the middle of making a series of resources on sustainable fisheries for the science and geography classroom and thought that I might have a play again with Ricardo Sgrillo’s excellent free Gooogle Earth tool, GE Graph.

You can easily make your own maps, using world border datasets, such as this one created by Valery35.

Download the Google Earth file, and have a play in your classroom.

What level of taxonomic detail is best?

Creating resources about field science is always difficult. What bits do you include? What do you leave out? Will some of the information distract from the point you are trying to make.

The past couple of days have been spent thinking about how to described zooxanthellae-coral symbiosis for younger teens, without getting all caught up in issues like, ‘Well they’re plant-like, but not a plant…’

Today is all about taxonomic detail and the difficulty of getting it right for a broad age range, say 10-16.

The above image is of the mantle of a giant clam. As a science teacher, which of the following levels would you want including in a resource sheet about the coral ecosystem:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

Is there a ‘right’ level of detail?

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