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Betty Trummel
Betty Trummel atop Observation Hill with Mt. Erebus in the background.

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

Aug. 31, 2006

‘Educator on the ice’

Crystal Lake 4th-grade teacher selected
to participate in Antarctic research program

DeKalb, Ill. —Fourth-grade teacher Betty Trummel is willing to go to the ends of the earth to make learning an adventure for her students. Toward that end, she’s headed to the Antarctic this fall—again.

Trummel has been selected as one of six science educators from four nations who will travel with scientists to Antarctica to participate in a unique science and outreach program. The award-winning teacher at Husmann Elementary School in Crystal Lake also has been a part-time faculty member in the Northern Illinois University College of Education, where she is currently working on her doctorate.

Beginning in October, the ‘educators on the ice’ will spend about 2 ˝ months in the south polar region with the scientific team for ANDRILL (Antarctic DRILLing), a $30 million geologic drilling project involving scientists from the United States, New Zealand, Italy and Germany. NIU geologist Ross Powell serves as co-chief scientist for the U.S. contingent of ANDRILL, and at least five other NIU faculty members and students will be part of the scientific team.

Trummel was named to the 2006-07 ANDRILL Research Immersion for Science Educators program (ARISE), an outreach and education effort that also will include LuAnn Dahlman of Mesa, Ariz.; Vanessa Miller of New York City; Matteo Cattadori of Trento, Italy; Alexander Siegmund of Heidelberg, Germany; and Julian Thomson of Belmont, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

In 1998, Trummel participated in a similar effort for the Cape Roberts program, ANDRILL’s predecessor drilling project in the Antarctic.

“With her boundless energy, enthusiasm, creativity and experience, Betty Trummel is an invaluable part of our team,” Powell says. “Betty’s first experience in the Antarctic allowed her to reach out to thousands of students across the globe. With this new project, we know she will serve as a leader among the educators and will build on her success exponentially.

“The educators on the ice are a critical part of our program,” Powell adds. “Not only do they do scientific work, but they also provide a conduit through which students, teachers and the general public learn about the scientific research that we’re doing.”

ANDRILL scientists are working to recover geologic records buried beneath the frozen Antarctic sea. Scientists will use a pressurized hot-water system to carve a drill hole through the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating slab of ice that is thicker than the length of two football fields. Atop the hole, a powerful drilling rig will sink a hollow steel drill pipe through the ice and more than a half mile of seawater before reaching the ocean floor. A drill bit will then penetrate another half mile into the seabed, extracting cylinders of sediment.

The sediment cores hold information about the history of climate on the continent and ultimately will provide scientists with a better understanding of contemporary global warming trends.

Trummel says the mystery surrounding Antarctica provides a stepping off point with students.

“There is such a sense of adventure connected to the Antarctic. It’s the coldest and windiest continent on earth and, for my fourth-grade students, the farthest place from Crystal Lake,” Trummel says. “I plan to involve students in this adventure in such a way that it excites them to learn more about the process of scientific research and about the continent’s geology, geography, climate and history.”

Trummel has regularly taught courses to NIU pre-service teachers on how to integrate science into elementary-school curriculums. She is pursuing a doctorate with a specialization in science, social studies and environmental education, a new specialization in the NIU Department of Teaching and Learning.

“My fourth graders will write about Antarctica, study maps and history, learn about the process and content of science and use their math skills to create tables and charts,” Trummel says. “I love everything about teaching, but for me, science brings it all together.”

Trummel’s previous expedition to the Antarctic benefited not only the students in her classroom and school, but also thousands of others worldwide. The Crystal Lake resident and mother of six has given presentations on her work to teachers in cities across the country, as well as in Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. Her students have had pen pals in four countries on three continents.

“I thought the experience of going to the Antarctic would be the highlight, but I enjoyed the education and outreach aspect so much that it’s become a huge part of my life,” Trummel says. “I’ve talked to over 20,000 people. Because of all the international connections, I’m able to bring the world to my students.”

As Trummel introduces her students to the Antarctic this fall, they will read and write about famous explorers, learn how scientists take field notes and study simulated sediment cores (made of different varieties of chocolate). Once the teacher leaves on her adventure, she plans to keep an online journal and have daily e-mail contact with her students. She also intends to write a book, “The ABCs of ANDRILL and Antarctica,” which will provide information for educators and students following the work of ANDRILL scientists, who will conduct their investigations over two seasons in the Antarctic. (A second set of educators will travel with scientists in October 2007.)

ANDRILL is expected to be a focal point during International Polar Year (2007-09), a worldwide campaign of polar research and education. The National Science Foundation is providing financial support for the U.S. portion of ANDRILL science and outreach.

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