Some cool stuff is going on at Manaugh Elementary School in Cortez.
The Polar Science Club had its first science night Feb. 29, teaching students, parents and families about the north and south poles and how to protect them from warming up.
The club was started by a former Manaugh student, Samuel Allsup, now a seventh-grader at Cortez Middle School. He teamed up with Manaugh fifth-grader Gabe Santacroce, and the club has been spreading frosty fun ever since.
The two students know so much about polar science they'll head north to Montreal, Quebec, this April for the International Polar Year Science Conference. In Canada, the two Cortez youths will give a presentation based on the Polar Science Club's activities.
Katlin Monroe teaches in the Montessori program at Manaugh and offers a polar science class as an elective for fifth-graders.
“It will really be the next step for them,” Monroe said. “Their presentation will actually be a poster, with photos and data and text to go along.”
Monroe got the idea for the class after spending three weeks in 2007 on a research vessel in Canadian waters working with scientists from around the globe.
“I never got bored,” she said. “It was astonishing — life altering for me.”
Monroe's work with the Manaugh fifth-graders led her to the first polar science conference in Oslo, Norway, in 2010, where she spoke about educating young students about the relatively new science.
Carbon dioxide, or C02, is a gas emitted naturally through the carbon cycle. Ideally the emission and removal of C02 in the carbon cycle is equal, but it has been on the rise for the past few hundred years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website. The EPA notes the increased burning of fossil fuels might be a factor in changing climate patterns.
The science is just plain interesting, according to Allsup and Santacroce, who want to share their knowledge with others and help make a difference along the way.
“We wanted to teach members in the community about what they can do to help stop climate change,” Allsup said. “Sometimes it's just using fewer lights, less power appliances and less water.”
The science focuses on a person's carbon footprint, or how much carbon a person uses annually based on the person's housing, transportation, food, and goods and services, according to Santacroche. The carbon and its gas, C02, is causing the planet to warm, and that can spell trouble.
“C02 is the main greenhouse gas which is trapping in the sun's heat, and that's warming our planet and can cause a lot of drastic changes,” the fifth-grader said.
Climate change also is melting glaciers, said Allsup.
The club and other students in the polar science class set up a variety of displays and interactive exhibits for the science night designed to teach people about the climate and how important the polar regions are for a healthy planet. There were posters about weather, books opened up about arctic animals, and games that visitors could play to learn about the new kind of study.
Polar student Jaiden Valles made what he called a blubber glove to show how animals in arctic climates stay warm. The “glove” was really a bag within a bag lined with cooking fat between the two. You put your hand in the glove and dipped it into a bucket of ice water to see how blubber in animals works to insulate their bodies.
“I like to learn about animals,” Valles said. “Learning about the Arctic and Antarctic is really fun because of the animals and what's happening there. It's really fascinating.”
Eli Sanders, another fifth-grade student, had photographs of glaciers spanning 12 years. He pointed out the shrinking ice as it receded up mountainsides and said the ice was melting, forming a lake as a result.
Sanders also said it's good to know about these things.
“It's important to know what's really going on in the world,” Sanders said. “Some people would just say, ‘Oh, climate change isn't real so we don't need to worry about it.' But really eventually the world will heat up and places will start flooding. That's why I like learning about this — to know what's going on in the world that some people don't even care about.”
Allsup and Santacroce will take what they observe from the science night and add it to their presentation in Montreal, Monroe said. The two students gave a survey for participants to fill out twice, before and after they visited the event to gather information on what people got out of their work.
“They will actually analyze the data, asking: ‘Did we teach people about the carbon cycle? Did we teach them about their foot -print?'” Monroe said.
The two young minds are very interested in knowledge they can provide others, Monroe said.
“They're really thinking about how to spread this in the community,” she said.
Manaugh's principal, Rick Hover, said it's a great thing to see youngsters so involved in the subject. He took the carbon footprint tally, a large, interactive exhibit to measure how much carbon you use each year with suggestions on how to cut down, like taking shorter showers or using fluorescent lights. The results for the tally and what it taught guests will be a big part of Allsup and Santacroce's presentation at the conference.
“These guys are taking it to another level,” Hover said. “I'm really impressed with their carbon footprint work. It's amazing. Now I'm going to have to go home and reduce mine.”
Reach Brandon Mathis at firstname.lastname@example.org.