GeoLog

Vienna

GeoEd: Lessons from the EGU 2014 GIFT Workshop

Today’s GeoEd post is brought to you by Susan Tate, an 8th grade teacher from Michigan in the USA. Susan attended the GIFT workshop held during the General Assembly last year.  The GIFT programme offers primary school to high school teachers the opportunity to upgrade their knowledge in geophysical themes and to shorten the time between new discoveries and textbook information. After three days supercharging her geosciences knowledge at the 2014 conference, Susan shares her perspective on the GIFT workshops.

What do you get when you combine a three-day Earth science workshop, world-renowned scientists, inspirational fellow teacher-participants, and one of the most beautiful, historical and culturally-rich cities in Europe? Answer: an opportunity of a lifetime for this small town Midwestern teacher, who had never even traveled to Europe before.

As a recipient of the William Goree Award for 2014, I would be experiencing the European Geosciences Union GIFT (Geosciences Information For Teachers) workshop in Vienna, Austria, fully funded by 2G-Enterprises (the company founded by the late William Goree and William Goodman), EDUGEA (an educational association in France), and EGU. I learned of the EGU GIFT workshop and the scholarship opportunity from an announcement in a NESTA newsletter in November of 2013. When I asked my principal for permission to apply—as I would be missing four days of school if selected—I told him that it was definitely a long-shot, but it would be a dream come true to attend. Imagine my excitement when I got an email in mid-December notifying me that I was to receive the Goree Award!

I spent the next few months preparing for my late April trip, and at the recommendation of Dr. Carlo Laj, chairman of the EGU Committee on Education, and Dr. Stephen Macko, a professor at the University of Virginia who serves on the committee, I was in frequent contact with Abigail Morton, a Pennsylvania teacher who had received the Goree Award the previous year. Armed with insider knowledge, abundant excitement to see the beautiful city of Vienna, and growing curiosity about the workshop speakers and participants, I stepped off the plane early on the morning of Sunday, April 27th ready to soak it all in.

Susan at the Rocks of the Earth exhibition at European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014. (Credit: Susan Tate)

Susan at the Rocks of the Earth exhibition at European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014. (Credit: Susan Tate)

The program began with a pre-workshop reception and guided tour of the Vienna Museum of Natural History. This museum, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is located in the heart of the historic section of the city. As I wandered through the astounding collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils, Dr. Macko informed me that the museum houses the oldest and largest public collection of meteorites in the world! At the museum I met the other American teachers in attendance, including four Einstein fellows who were working with NSF and NOAA. The conference had not yet officially begun and I knew I was going to be inspired as much by my fellow teacher-participants as by the program speakers.

The theme of the 12th annual EGU GIFT workshop was “Our Changing Planet” with an emphasis on climate, and on the first official morning of the conference we got right to business with an engaging talk by Thomas Stocker, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group 1 Co-Chair, from the University of Bern, Switzerland. Dr. Stocker highlighted the process of the IPCC working groups, the wealth of data supporting anthropogenic climate change, and the serious risks that we face if we do not act to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. This compelling presentation was followed by a talk from Valerie Masson-Delmotte about climate information that can be obtained from ice cores, and hands-on activities from Sally Soria-Dengg and Francesca Ugolini.

I found the experiments on ocean acidification and the role of the ocean in the carbon cycle, demonstrated by Dr. Soria-Dengg, to be very engaging and enlightening, and I cannot wait to use those in my Earth science classes this year as we study the connections between climate and oceans. I especially enjoyed the demonstration of ocean acidification using a glass bowl filled with distilled water and an indicator solution. Lighted floating candles are placed on the water’s surface and then covered with a second glass bowl to make a chamber. As the burning candles release carbon dioxide, the surface water in contact with the air turns yellow, which indicates acidification. This visual demonstration will clearly illustrate for my students how ocean water can become acidic as it absorbs increasing amounts of CO2 from our atmosphere.

Day 2 of the GIFT workshop dawned bright, and all of the teachers were ready to learn more about the evidence for human impact on our climate system. One of the challenges for teachers concerning this topic, especially in the United States where it is fraught with political tension and argument, is presenting the scientific data in a way that is clear, concise, and allows students to connect the dots without forcing conclusions on them. Frequently during the workshop the mood in the room would turn quiet and somber as all of the teachers grasped the sheer amount of scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change. We learned of evidence from ice cores, ocean chemistry and expansion, sea ice melt, agricultural change, and satellite observations. By the afternoon of the second day, we were ready to lighten the mood with a game called The Carbon Caper. I can definitely see my middle school students getting involved in a game that simulates carbon movement between various sources and sinks by throwing plastic balls into mesh bins. The best kind of learning for many of us is the kind in which we feel like we are playing instead of learning.

Tuesday’s program was shortened to allow us to get ready for the evening’s poster session. Since the GIFT workshop was part of the EGU General Assembly, there were literally thousands of posters being presented during the conference. It was quite overwhelming to even find the section where I was supposed to hang my own poster, which was on water quality research conducted by my students on our local watershed. Thankfully, Dr. Eve Arnold, also a member of the EGU Education Committee, had prepared us well for the event, and we followed a schedule that allowed us to spend some time at our own poster answering questions, and equal time interacting with other teachers and their posters. I was able to get many good ideas for my classroom from other GIFT participants.

On the final day of the workshop, we heard from Dr. Larry Mayer, Director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, as he discussed his experiences with recent changes in Arctic ice cover. Dr. Mayer entertained us with tales from his voyages mapping sea ice in the Arctic, as well as cautioned us about the implications of diminishing sea ice on both our climate system and our geopolitical system. According to Dr. Mayer, the five coastal nations that border the Arctic—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States—have all engaged in extensive seafloor mapping in the last decade in order to establish their sovereign rights over the resources of the seafloor under the Law of the Sea Treaty. This presentation was very interesting and provided us with great resources to make interdisciplinary connections between science and social studies.

An additional highlight on the final day of the conference was the opportunity for the U.S. teachers to visit a school in Vienna. Claudia Pollach and her administrators at AHS Heustadelgasse were very gracious to open the doors of their school to us. We enjoyed learning more about the education system of Vienna, and the environmentally sustainable design of Ms. Pollach’s school.

I am incredibly grateful that I was able to attend the EGU GIFT workshop last spring with the assistance of the William Goree Award. This opportunity was definitely responsible for expanding my scientific background, which is the purpose of the award. Since returning from Vienna, I have included details of my experience in a presentation at the Michigan Science Teachers Association conference, as well as worked with several extracurricular student groups on climate-related projects. In the next month, I will be teaching units on climate and oceans, and I am excited about incorporating the hands-on lessons that I learned from the GIFT workshop. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Carlo Laj (Chairman of the EGU Committee on Education and founder and President of EDUGEA), Lauren Keaton (William Goree’s daughter), and William Goodman (2G Enterprises) for selecting me for this award and for fostering such high-quality teacher professional development.

By Susan Tate, 8th Grade Earth Science Teacher, Whitehall Middle School, Michigan

EGU 2015: Getting to Vienna, getting to sleep and getting to know the city

With the conference only a month away here is a brief, and by no means comprehensive, introduction of how to get to Vienna and what to do when you’re there!

Getting here

Vienna’s International Airport is served by many of the major European airlines. If you would like to consider overland you’ll find more information on the General Assembly website. And, if you haven’t seen it already, make sure you check out the General Assembly guide, which is full of even more hints and tips on how to get to Vienna and get ready for the conference.

Vienna at sunsest. (Credit: Flickr user cadoc)

Vienna at sunsest. (Credit: Flickr user cadoc)

Getting to sleep

An abundance of accommodation options can be found on the EGU 2015 website. But if you’re not a fan of hotels, there are a variety of alternatives in Vienna. Here are a few examples!

If you’re looking for a low cost option, there are a host of hostels in Vienna, just check these sites:

And, if you’d like to feel more at home, or stay in a flat with fellow geoscientists, you can consider the apartments available in Vienna:

Early morning tram travel in the city. (Credit: Julian Turner)

Early morning tram travel in the city. (Credit: Julian Turner)

Getting to know Vienna

The Vienna tourist board has all you need to know about sightseeing, shows, shopping, dining and other information about Vienna and you can top this information up with this list of the city’s museums.

Tourist information offices can be found in the Arrivals Hall of Vienna International Airport or at the Tourist Information Centre, which sits behind the Vienna State Opera (the Tourist Information Centre is open daily 09:00-19:00 and you can access it from the U-bahn stop Albertinaplatz/Maysedergasse). Additionally, there is another tourist information office located in the main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, also accessible on the U-bahn. It is open Mon- Sun from 09:00-17:00.

If you’ve been before and can recommend a good spot for dinner, or something to do when you have a little down time, feel free to make suggestions in the comments!

EGU 2015 General Assembly programme is now online!

EGU 2015 General Assembly programme is now online!

The EGU General Assembly 2015 programme is available here. Take a look and – if you haven’t already – register for the conference by 12 March to make the early registration rates!

The scientific programme of this year’s General Assembly includes Union SymposiaInterdivision SessionsEducational and Outreach Symposia, as well as oral, poster and PICO sessions covering the full spectrum of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. The Keynote and Medal LecturesGreat Debates in the GeosciencesShort CoursesTownhall Meetings, and Splinter Meetings complete the overall programme.

There are several ways to access the programme, so you can explore the sessions with ease:

  • Browse by day & time: view the oral, poster and PICO sessions by their time and location, each sorted chronologically by conference day, time block and programme group
  • Browse by session: view the scientific sessions and their oral, poster and PICO sub-sessions by programme group
  • Personal programme: a great tool to generate your own personal programme, just select the specific presentations or sessions you’re interested in to create your own personal schedule
  • Papers of special interest: take a look at the abstracts that were selected by their respective session conveners to be of interest to the press & media

Want more ways to browse the programme? We’ll be releasing the EGU 2015 mobile app closer to the conference, stay tuned!

We look forward to seeing you in Vienna for the General Assembly (12 – 17 April 2015).

Communicate Your Science Video Competition at EGU 2015!

Want to communicate your research to a wider audience and try your hand at video production? Now’s your chance! Young scientists pre-registered for the EGU General Assembly are invited to take part in the EGU’s Communicate Your Science Video Competition!

The aim is to produce a video up-to-three-minutes long to share your research with the general public. The winning entry will receive a free registration to the General Assembly in 2016.

Your video can include scenes of you out in the field and explaining an outcrop, or at the lab bench showing how to work out water chemistry; entries can also include cartoons, animations (including stop motion), or music videos – you name it! As long as you’re explaining concepts in the Earth, planetary and space sciences in a language suitable for a general audience, you can be as creative as you like.

Why not take a look at the finalists and winner of the 2014 competition for an idea of what makes a winning entry?

Feeling inspired? Send your video to Laura Roberts (roberts@egu.eu) by 4 March, together with proof of online pre-registration to EGU 2015. Check the EGU website for more information about the competition and pre-register for the conference on the EGU 2015 website

Shortlisted videos will be showcased on the EGU YouTube Channel in April, when voting opens! In the run up to the General Assembly and during the conference, viewers can vote for their favourite film by clicking on the video’s ‘like’ button. The winning video will be the one with the most likes by the end of the General Assembly.

What are you waiting for? Take the chance to showcase your research and spread great geoscientific facts with the world!

 

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