Maggie Prevenas, April 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 28, 2007

Science Log

St Paul. The other Pribilof Island. Stormy seas were forecasted. To the Coast Guard it was all about safety. To Robyn and me it was all about getting there and back. We had a presentation scheduled for the school from 11-12:30. We wanted to connect with the community.

I was going to St. Paul by helicopter!

I was going to St. Paul by helicopter!

St. Paul is larger than St. George. The helicopter was an efficient way to transport people off the boat (those who were going home) and pick up people coming to the boat (those scientists who were joining our adventure). Robyn, David Doucet (air safety manager) and I were the first flight out. Robyn and I were very excited and nervous at the same time.

David’s helmet reminded us to calm down.

David’s helmet reminded us to calm down.

Up and off we flew, 6 miles from the ship to the airport over the freezing cold Bering Sea. One minute on the ship, blink twice, we were landing safely at the airport in St. Paul. Tonia Kushin, teacher from St. Paul and I had been in contact with each other since late March. We wanted to bring her students culture to my students’ culture and make a meaningful connection. She took us on a tour of St. Paul, and then took us to her school. Both Robyn and I took in her tour like a sponge.

Wild arctic foxes are often seen on St. Paul.

Wild arctic foxes are often seen on St. Paul.

It was a wonderful time! We were set up in the library, a most fantastic place to learn. Surrounded by student-made kayaks, a seal skeleton, and many antique photos from the olden time, we began our introductions.

I created activity stations for the elementary and middle school students.

I created activity stations for the elementary and middle school students.

Our education activity stations were a hit. I think the one the students enjoyed most was getting into and out of the MS 900 suit and bunny boots.

It didn’t matter if the MS 900 was too big; the students really enjoyed putting it on, and taking it off.

It didn’t matter if the MS 900 was too big; the students really enjoyed putting it on, and taking it off.

We talked to the audience about marine mammals, then broke into activity stations, then were treated to a celebration of dance.

Their costumes were gorgeous!

Their costumes were gorgeous!

Their dance lively!

Their dance lively!

Their song rang clear and sweet.

Their song rang clear and sweet.

It brought tears to my eyes.

It brought tears to my eyes.

All the costumes were made by hand using traditional methods.

All the costumes were made by hand using traditional methods.

She told me that the dancing group is getting smaller and younger with each passing year. Seems many teenagers are no longer interested in learning the Aleut ways. I understood what she said. It is difficult to compete with video games and the internet. I see some of my students in Hawaii making those same choices.

Students at St. Paul school enjoyed drawing on a Styrofoam cup. I took them with me back to the ship.

Students at St. Paul school enjoyed drawing on a Styrofoam cup. I took them with me back to the ship.

Before we knew it, it was time to go. The wind had picked up considerably and we needed to leave the school, WIKI WIKI!

We said a hurried good-bye, and left St. Paul behind. I left the island with a treasure trove of memories, and a stack of Styrofoam cups for the St. Paul students experiment “Down to the Deep.”

That kinda says it all for me.  This experience is all about science and making cultural connections. It is all one ocean, one voice, one earth.

Maggie Prevenas, April 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 27, 2007

Science Log

We took the zodiac to St. George Island today, an island that is part of the Pribilof Islands, north of the Aleutian chain. Right after breakfast, the team of scientists and others (us teacher kine) were directed to the helo area (where the helicopter is stored) to put on our survival suits. The MS 900.

Emily Davenport and I were very happy to ride in a zodiac!

Emily Davenport and I were very happy to ride in a zodiac!

Since I was going to have my students try on the suit I was wearing, I was able to keep it on, and change into my street clothes at the school.

The zodiac ride over was so much FUN! Splash, splash, kersplash, the person at the front of the bow got very wet.

The ride over to St. George was so much fun!

The ride over to St. George was so much fun!

The rest of us hid behind him and let him take the salty spray. Once on the island, we were transported to the school via a little white bus.

THAT’S when the fun really began!

Although St. George School is very small, it has a BIG heart.

Although St. George School is very small, it has a BIG heart.

We did an icebreaking activity (person bingo) that was a real hit! Each person had a piece of paper with 20 questions. Each person had to find someone in the general meeting area who could answer that question right. Then, they put their name on the sheet. The first one with a complete blackout wins.

Everyone had to ask everyone their name and a few questions. It’s an icebreaker that takes the edge off of meeting new people.

Everyone had to ask everyone their name and a few questions. It’s an icebreaker that takes the edge off of meeting new people.

Then we rolled into our next activity, ‘Which creature do you identify with best?’ There were loads of people who stood by the polar bear, humpback whale, and walrus. The phytoplankton and pollock were ignored by everyone.  Hopefully by the end of the day, they might warm up to this microscopic creature and learn that it controls the entire ecosystem.

The phytoplankton puppet was a little strange looking. After I explained it to a few students, one decided that he wanted to rule the ocean with me.

The phytoplankton puppet was a little strange looking. After I explained it to a few students, one decided that he wanted to rule the ocean with me.

The elementary students and middle schools funneled through my stations. Of course their favorite was the station about Hawaii, mostly because of the treats I offered, perhaps? I do believe they have learned a little more about my island home and the students I teach. I hope we can continue or friendship via a blog spot I recently set up. They were incredibly respectful and curious students!

We brought the four high schoolers and some teachers and community members back to the ship with us. They were given a nice tour of the boat and supper. Back to the zodiacs they went. We waved aloha to our new friends.

Maggie Prevenas, April 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 18, 2007

Ship Crew: Lee Harris, Native Alaskan

I ate breakfast this morning with Lee Harris, a member of the National Marine Mammal Lab, NOAA’s ice seal team. Lee is also an Inupiat Eskimo. I enjoy listening to and learning about what he says. It is obvious in the harsh Arctic environment, that Native people have the edge in making observations and finding the ice seal. After all, they have been living in the Arctic and sharing their environment with ice seals their entire lives.

Lee’s village is Kotzebue, Alaska, a small town about 30 miles north from the Arctic Circle. Many of the people there rely on the native animals for their food, boats and some clothing. It didn’t occur to me until I talked with him this morning, that he had to make some major changes to his lifestyle in joining this scientific expedition.

These French pastries are not a regular part of Lee’s diet

These French pastries are not a regular part of Lee’s diet

Take eating and diet. I piled the fresh pineapple, melon and strawberries high in my bowl, and spooned strawberry yogurt over the fruit. Two warm hard-boiled eggs gave me a little protein boost, to keep me going until lunch.

Lee is quite good at driving the zodiac.

Lee is quite good at driving the zodiac.

But the food on the ship is not ordinary for Lee. He told me dried caribou, seal meat, and walrus are what he enjoys. The Native Alaskan diet needs to be high in protein and energy in order to sustain their active lifestyle and brutal cold weather. High in cholesterol, unhealthy? No way! Lee has been told he is as healthy as can be by the doctor in the local clinic. By far, more healthy than some youngsters that stray from the traditional diet and consume fast foods and white sugar.

Lee can spot seals really well. He knows where they hang out from experience.

Lee can spot seals really well. He knows where they hang out from experience.

I have lots to learn from Lee. His quiet way of talking and humble nature are as natural and true as the ice seals presence here in the Bering Sea.