It was the 1st of June, and the outreach team was in the air somewhere over Northern Quebec, heading South. Feeling quite pleased (and rather exhausted) after a successful outreach trip to Igloolik, Nunavut, I started thinking back to when I was first contacted about joining this outreach team of CANDAC CREATE scientists. “A little over a week up North” – initially it sounded like a long time. Every week is precious to me as I approach the end of my doctoral work at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia). But I had been a part of a similar outreach team to Pond Inlet, Nunavut in May 2010 and, in the end, my fond memories of that trip convinced me that I couldn’t turn down a chance to return to the classrooms of the North. And suddenly, like all such trips, it was over in a flash and I was back on the plane finding myself wishing it wasn’t already time to head back South.
This outreach event was a follow-up trip to an initial visit back in March when Ashley Kilgour (CANDAC outreach coordinator), Melanie Wright (M.Sc. student, Western University), and Niall Ryan (Ph.D. student, University of Toronto) spent a week in Igloolik teaching students at Ataguttaaluk School, the local elementary school, how to measure basic atmospheric properties. Eight weeks later, the students were ready to share their observations.
A conference prevented Niall from attending this trip, so Anthony Pugliese and I joined Ashley and Melanie instead (Anthony is an undergraduate summer student at the University of Toronto). After a brief pause in Iqaluit, we arrived in Igloolik on 24 May to bright sunshine and temperatures around -5 °C. At this time of year, Igloolik experiences 24 hours of daylight. Although the sun quickly hid behind the clouds (never to return before we left), thick curtains in our rooms were critical to maintaining any semblance of a normal sleeping routine. A quick look out the window at 1 AM would often reveal a group of children playing in the streets. Despite the happy exhaustion of working in the school all day, it was far too easy to stay up too late without the familiar arrival of darkness reminding us we need to sleep.
As we entered the first classroom on Monday morning we were immediately greeted with cries of “Hi Ashley, Hi Mel!…. Where’s Niall?!” Clearly, the students remembered the March visit! A quick look through their log books showed a decent amount of data despite a few equipment failures. We came prepared with alternate data just in case, but we all breathed a sigh of relief that it would not be needed. Our student researchers had done a fantastic job.
We must have been quite the sight as we shuttled our cart of materials from classroom to classroom. The days were full — four classes before lunch, and four more in the afternoon. We barely had time to blink before we were surrounded by a whole new group of young faces. Over the course of the week we worked with 11 different classes, meeting with each group a few times. Grade 1 and 2 students had been recording the temperature each day, while grade 3 and 4 students monitored wind speed and direction. Grades 5, 6, and 7 had made daily measurements of solar insolation with pyranometers, and everyone made notes about sky conditions and the type of clouds overhead.
My favorite part about this trip was how student centered it was. My previous outreach trip to Nunavut involved more formal presentations and demonstrations — this time the students directed their own efforts. “How do YOU want to share your data?” was a question I found myself asking continually throughout the trip. The variety of ideas was heartening. Some wanted to write a story about collecting the data, while others wanted to graph how the solar insolation changed throughout the project. The artists drew pictures representing the cloud types observed, and one group made a video demonstrating how to use the pyranometer to measure the solar radiation.
We finished the week with a large assembly in the school gymnasium. The students hung their finished projects around the room and we set up tables of various atmospheric demonstrations. These included homemade thermometers, clouds in jars, and a nifty demonstration of atmospheric circulation using hot and cold dyed water. All of the students, teachers, school staff, and even some of the students’ families joined us for a celebration of their hard work.
Soon it was time to pack our bags and prepare to head on home, but not without one more late night walk under the midnight sun. We stood silently at the edge of the still frozen Foxe Basin and I soaked in the view of the community one last time. Happily, the somber mood was quickly broken by a sudden cry of “You’re it!” and a crazy game of tag began with a group of the children we had been working with all week. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous trip.
– Jonathan Franklin
Ph.D. Student, Dalhousie University