8th Graders Hangout with South Pole Scientists

David Amidon (TAS, 2017) and his students from Lafayette, NY connected with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Corps Officer, Lieutenant Cherisa Friedlander and Sabrina Shemet, all the way on the South Pole, during a videoconference on September 19, 2018.

Amidon sailed on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker with LT Friedlander during a Juvenile Rockfish Survey in June 2017. She shared a lot of information about the NOAA Corps and Reuben Lasker while participating as part of the science crew. After Amidon’s TAS experience, he discovered that LT Friedlander was posted in Antarctica as the lead scientist at the South Pole Station Lab. That led to an experience to remember for his 8th graders.

Students in a classroom watching a live videoconference.

David Amidon’s students videoconference with Sabrina Shemet (L) and LT Cherisa Friedlander.

Amidon’s students researched the ozone layer with the goal to predict the lowest level the ozone will reach this year, and the date this will occur. This tied in nicely with the research happening at the South Pole Station Lab. Each September, when the sun finally rises after 6 months of darkness, a chain reaction is triggered on the upper-level clouds that destroy ozone molecules, creating the famed ozone hole over Antarctica. Scientists send weather balloons into the sky every few days to record the levels of ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, and other important data.

Amidon’s 8th grade students submitted questions to LT Friedlander and Sabrina Shemet and both scientists met with the students to answer their questions over a Google Hangout videoconference. The students had an exciting time learning that the South Pole station is sitting on top of a glacier that is almost 2 miles deep. They also learned that planes can’t fly into the area for 9 months because they would freeze to the ground, and that at the South Pole the sun moves in a circle around the horizon once it is up—it will not set until March. They learned and experienced so much more, and this will certainly be a memory they won’t soon forget.