By Vincent Domena
Bering Sea Days (BSD) is an annual outreach program on St. Paul Island, Alaska. A crew of 13 presenters met up to teach the K-12 Pribilof School District about many topics structured around climate change. These topics spanned the effects of climate change on land, vegetation and the ocean. There were about 100 students present, some of which traveled from a neighboring island, St. George Island, for the week. The October 2016 program was headed by Lauren Divine who received her PhD at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
From October 3rd to October 7th I had the honor of joining the presenter crew. We were welcomed by the community and the St. Paul Island Mighty Sea Parrots. Some of the activities the students really enjoyed were greenhouse exploration, helping to create a 10 ft paper mache orca, dissecting marine organisms and all about sea ice. The students and I investigated sea ice by comparing freshwater and saltwater ice cores made from local sources. The local minimum temperature is about +13 degrees F, so we made a trip to a local freezer where students could feel what -17 degrees F feels like. Students especially liked adding food coloring to the top of ice cores, which then highlighted the brine channels. At the end of the session students had a better feel for the dynamics of sea ice during freezing and melting in the Arctic.
BSD was a unique experience due to the small number of students and instructors, which lead to a quickly familiar experience. By the end of the week everyone had interacted in some way. Saturday was the first community event put on by BSD. It acted as a booster for the 5th grade field trip and allowed students to show off their new knowledge to their families. By the end of the week students and instructors alike were sad to see the fun event come to a close, but already looking forward to future visits.