Shakira Brown, right, a science teacher at New York's Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy, and Howard Koss, a graduate student at Queens College, CUNY, on a C-17 flight from New Zealand to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The project is researching climate conditions over millions of years and communicating with schools across the country so students can follow their progress.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of Stephen Pekar, Queens College, CUNY.

Unlocking Climate Mysteries and Engaging Students from Harlem to Antarctica
News story originally written on November 24, 2008

Shakira Brown, a middle school teacher from New York City, has tried hard to get her students interested in science. This fall she's going to extremes to make this happen. Brown is currently in Antarctica as a member of a scientific expedition that is trying to learn what conditions were like there tens of millions of years ago. The project will help us understand what could happen to the Earth as the climate changes. It will also allow K-12 students from across the country to see scientists in action. Brown, the scientists, and students on the expedition are blogging about their work and will interact with K-12 students through videoconferencing and the Internet.

Scientists know that higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases can change our climate, and many experts believe that this climate change may affect our lives dramatically. After staying almost the same for millions of years, the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere has climbed quickly in the last 100 years and scientists think it will climb even higher.

The last time CO2 levels were this high was between 25 and 40 million years ago. About 34 million years ago, the climate switched from a warm greenhouse world, where very little ice collected in Antarctica, to the so-called icehouse world, where large ice sheets began to form. Based on research by scientists, once the ice sheet that covers Antarctica formed, it sometimes grew larger than it is today and sometimes melted to a much smaller size. This caused sea level to dramatically rise and fall.

The team hopes to collect data about the Earth's conditions during that period so they can better understand what happened the last time CO2 levels were so high. To do this, they will study the sediments deposited off the coast of Antarctica during the the greenhouse world and the icehouse world.

Brown hopes that in addition to reaching the project's scientific goals, this expedition will show students the possibilities science has to offer.

Visit the project's Web site to learn more about this expedition and track the team's progress.

Last modified December 17, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more


Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more

Global Warming: Scientists Say Earth Is Heating Up

Earth’s climate is warming. During the 20th Century Earth’s average temperature rose 0.6° Celsius (1.1°F). Scientists are finding that the change in temperature has been causing other aspects of our planet...more

Carbon Dioxide - CO2

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a kind of gas. There isn't that much carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, but it is still very important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps trap heat coming...more

What Is Climate?

The climate where you live is called regional climate. It is the average weather in a place over more than thirty years. To describe the regional climate of a place, people often tell what the temperatures...more

Effects of Climate Change Today

Over 100 years ago, people worldwide began burning more coal and oil for homes, factories, and transportation. Burning these fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere....more

The Cryosphere

Frozen water is found in many different places on Earth. Snow blankets the ground at mid and high latitudes during winter. Sea ice and icebergs float in the chilly waters of polar oceans. Ice shelves fringe...more

Glaciers and Ice Sheets

For a glacier to develop, the amount of snow that falls must be more than the amount of snow that melts each year. This means that glaciers are only found in places where a large amount of snow falls each...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA