Yesterday was our last day in Utqiagvik Alaska! It has become successively both warmer and windier as our week progressed. This was interesting as the wind chill remained about the same at around -30F. So while the start of the week was all about layers and insulation the end was about exposed skin minimization and that all important shell layer. We started with what has become a ritual and a act of rebellion against the elements: Walking to School.
I did not expect to be able to do so much walking in Utqiagvik but with the right gear walking was not only possible but helped fight against the cabin fever of the near endless night. And there was something so wonderfully ridiculous about putting on 5 layers of clothing to avoid a 4 minute cab ride! Our last day came with a sense of occasion. Not just because we were heading home but also because The Teacher’s class was hitting a key point in the Curriculum that Meridith and John wrote. Today we saw more “Ah ha!” moments that we saw all week. The Teacher was working with the students to identify and describe all the Computational Thinking (CT) skills they had developed this week: Aggregation, abstraction and pattern recognition. In addition one CT tool was discussed: Interpolation. When you think of learning methods in a College course you get introduced to the name, then the concept/math and then the application.
The Precipitating Change curriculum turns this on its head. Students are introduced to the data first, allowed to explore and interact, develop the skills and then introduced to the terms. This makes these complex terms much less daunting, as The Teacher will say: “You just did that!”. I have never seen a student at any level excitedly call out INTERPOLATION with a huge grin on her face. Let alone describe it as “Predicting a value by the values around it”. I can learn a lot about scientific communications from these 14 year olds from the Northern-most outpost of the United States.
The last class was, without any doubt, the most amazing. The 8th period class has made the most progress of any class however, like in any school, students progress at different rates. The amazing aspect of this class was the participation across the whole spectrum of learning styles. All students were genuinely proud of the fact they were carrying out these complex scientific CT tasks. One data point does not make a trend, but this is a data point none-the-less. After a debrief with The Teacher and an assertion that this is just the start of a long collaboration and relationship between the team at Concord, Argonne and Millersville and The Middle School, we walked back to the hotel.
After near ceremonial packing of the warmest of our warm gear into our checked luggage we took the hotel shuttle to the tiny Utqiagvik airport. The airport is a one room affair with adjacent check in, security and gate in one. A quick final embrace of the Utqiagvik air and we were on board and at the start of our trek South-East to the Midwest where, Ironically, we would meet the very same airmass we experienced in the North with temperatures hovering near 0F.