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Teacher Edition

Week of November 5, 2017

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Hey, this is Pandora. You know, I was reading the choices about Barrow, Alaska. A friend of mine asked me if you knew about a disaster that took place in Valdez, Alaska? I know this is hundreds of miles from Barrow, but my friend thought that Barrow was involved somehow? She knew that her parents had mentioned it, but neither of us know much about it. Do either of you? Why didn't you use that as one of your choices last week? That would have been much cooler!

Pandora - I can answer your friend's question for you tomorrow, I promise. I did attach some pictures that might interest you (of the disaster). Holy Idaho! You should see them!!

     - Meri

A picture of an oil spill from the air.

The beauty of Alaska

Another beautiful picture


March 24, 1989, is when the famous Valdez oil spill occurred. The spill occurred hundreds of miles away from Barrow, (in Valdez, the southern end of the TransAlaska oil pipeline). The spill is still considered one of the worst human-caused disasters ever to happen at sea, even 20+ years later. This oil spill wasn't one of the largest oil spills in the world, but it did cause a great deal of damage and death to the wildlife surrounding the Prince William Sound. Many of the local islands are only accessible by boat or airplane, so it was hard to clean up the oil spill. Over 10 million gallons of oil were spilled into the sea! I wonder how much 10 million gallons would be. That sounds like a LOT of oil! This area was a habitat for seals, seabirds, salmon, sea otters, and many other forms of wildlife. Clean up was slow; many wildlife animals died in the water, and it was just a sad event in United States history.

The Trans-Alaska pipeline runs from Prudhoe Bay down to Prince William Sound (see the map below) and was built in the 1970s. It completely changed the economy of Alaska forever. Thousands of people moved to Alaska to help build it --- and never left. I wonder how long it took to build the pipeline?

Last weekend we traveled to Barrow, Alaska, the furthest northern part of the entire United States. Great job to those students who guessed that answer last week! Louie was here making a speaking engagement to workers here about renewable resources and energy. I wonder why he would come to Barrow to discuss this topic. This small town does not look like it has much, but it does have its own small airport! This airport is the only year-round access to Barrow, the economic center of the Alaska's North Slope.

Did you know that Barrow is in both a desert and a tundra? As a desert, Barrow averages less than 5 inches of rain each year. This includes the 30 inches of snow each year (since one inch of rain is approximately equal to twelve inches of snow). A tundra is a treeless area with very little vegetation and nearly completely frozen ground. They have a very hard time putting up buildings on that tundra, and they all look kind of funny up on stilts. They call the frozen ground permafrost. Permafrost is ground that is permanently frozen.

Barrow is classified as being in a polar climate. It is cold and dry. Barrow is about 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle! That is VERY far north. We attached a map for you to see. The Arctic Ocean surrounds Barrow on three sides. Barrow has the lowest average temperatures in Alaska. They even have days of "white out" conditions from the blowing snow. Do you know why people call them "white out" days? The summer is also cool (even on the warmest day). Temperatures are below freezing from October through May! There are some snowy days from June through September. Wow - that is COLD. And let me tell you, we can feel the cold. Meri and I both have to borrow "winter gear" any time we go outside (full body snow suits, gloves, hats, and completely covered faces). I have to admit I am excited. We don't see much snow in Phoenix. I guess this climate is a lot different than Phoenix, even though they are both deserts. How does your own city's climate compare to Barrow?

Here is something I bet many of you don't know - Barrow is one of the cloudiest places on Earth, mainly because of the prevailing easterly winds from the Arctic Ocean. Another fascinating fact is that Barrow is only accessible by plane. I am not sure why, but no roads seem to lead to Barrow? Barrow appears to be a peninsula. A peninsula is land that is surrounded by water on all but one side. If land is entirely surrounded by water, it is called an island. The Barrow residents actually drive small four-wheel drive vehicles. I am glad that I already did Drivers's Education and have my license. Speaking of Barrow residents, did you know that Barrow has been the home to the Inupiat Eskimos for over 1,000 years? They use the name Ukpeagvik or "place where snowy owls are hunted".

     - Geo

Daytime view (which we don't see often)

Beautiful ice formation

Ice formation - WOW


Map of Alaska
Can you find Barrow? What other cities/towns can you locate? Why do you think so many have names that sound like a different language?


Well, yesterday was the meeting where Louie was speaking. The community center wouldn't allow Geo and me inside, since we didn't have tickets to attend. It was already getting dark when the convention began. There isn't much daylight time in this part of Alaska during this month of the year because of the earth's tilt. The sun doesn't even rise between mid-November and late-January each year!). So, we waited in the entrance area. We figured that we couldn't miss him there, plus, this option was INSIDE where it wasn't the Arctic Tundra or DARK. So, we waited and waited... and waited! Well, people started coming out about 2 hours later. We split up and asked if anyone knew where he was. Since he was the main speaker, all of the attendees knew who we were talking about. The second person we spoke with apologized and explained that Louie had left about 30 minutes before the end of the meeting. He had gone out of the room through the back, and they assumed he might have used the back door! Holy Idaho! Why doesn't this man want us to find him? Do you think he is hiding a secret? Why do you think he sneaked out the back door?

     - Meri

Animals of Alaska

More Alaskan wildlife

Isn't this a neat form of transportation?

Vocabulary Terms:

Arctic Circle - an imaginary line of latitude around the Arctic regions. It is near (but to the south) of the North Pole.

Arctic Ocean - smallest ocean in the world. Surrounds the North Pole between North America and Eurasia.

desert - a sandy and dry landform and biome. Deserts typically have extreme temperatures: either hot or cold.

island - land that is surrounded on all sides by water.

peninsula - a piece of land that is bordered by water (on three or more sides), but is not an island. A peninsula is attached to a larger body of land but sticks out into the water.

permafrost - ground that is permanently frozen.

polar climate - a climate which is too cold and dry to support the growth of trees.

renewable resources - any natural resource that can be replenished naturally within a relatively short time. Examples include wood or solar energy.

tundra - a treeless area with very little vegetation and frozen ground beneath the surface.

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Standards for this episode:

Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographical tools and technologies.

Grade 3-5: Knows the basic elements of maps and globes (title, legend, cardinal, scale, grid, meridians, time zones, etc.).

Grade 6-8: Understands concepts such as axis, seasons, rotation, and revolution.

Knows the location of places, geographical features, and patterns of the environment.

Grade 3-5: Knows major physical and human features of places as they are represented on maps and globes. Knows how to read different maps: road, relief, globe, etc..

Grade 3-5: Knows the approximate location of major continents, mountain ranges, and bodies of water on Earth.

Grade 6-8: Knows the location of physical and human features on maps and globes (e.g., culture hearths such as Mesopotamia, Huang Ho, the Yucatan Peninsula, the Nile Valley; major ocean currents; wind patterns; land forms; climate regions).

Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's surface.

Grade 3-5: Understands how changing transportation and communication technology has affected relationships between locations. Ease of travel between some and difficulty getting to some others because of transportation and how people move and shop from one to the other because of the ease (trains, road systems, ferries, etc...).

Grade 6-8: Understands distributions of physical and human occurrences with respect to spatial patterns, arrangements, and associations (e.g. why some areas are more densely settled than others).

Grade 6-8: Understands how places are connected and how these connections demonstrate interdependence and accessibility (such as - the role of the changing transportation and communication technology).

Understands the physical and human characteristics of a place.

Grade 6-8: Knows the human characteristics of places (e.g., cultural characteristics such as religion, language, politics, technology, family structure, gender; population characteristics; land uses; levels of development).

Grade 6-8: Knows the physical characteristics of places (soil, vegetation, wildlife, etc..).

Understands the concept of regions.

Grade 3-5: Knows the characteristics of a variety of regions (climate, housing, religion, language, etc..).

Grade 6-8: Understands criteria that give a region identity (such as Amsterdam as a transportation center or the Sunbelt's warm climate and popularity with retired people).

Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth's surfaces.

Grade 3-5: Knows the physical components of Earth's atmosphere (weather and climate), lithosphere (land forms such as mountains), hydrosphere (oceans, lakes and rivers), and biosphere (vegetation and biomes).

Grade 6-8: Knows the consequences of a specific physical process operating on Earth's surface (e.g., effects of an extreme weather phenomenon such as a hurricane's impact on a coastal ecosystem, effects of heavy rainfall on hill slopes, effects of the continued movement of Earth's tectonic plates).

Understands the characteristics of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Grade 3-5: Knows plants and animals associated with various vegetation and climatic region on Earth (i.e. kinds of plants and animals found in the rainforests of Africa).

Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface.

Grade 3-5: Knows how and why people divide Earth's surface into political and/or economic units (e.g., states in the United States and Mexico; provinces in Canada; countries in North and South America; countries linked in cooperative relationships, such as the European Union).

Understands how physical systems affect human systems.

Grade 3-5: Knows how humans adapt to variations in the physical environment (e.g. choices of clothing, housing styles, agricultural practices, recreational activities, food, daily and seasonal patterns of life).

Grade 3-5: Knows natural hazards that occur in the physical environment (floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc..).

Grade 6-8: Knows how the physical environment affects life in different regions (e.g., how people in Siberia, Alaska, and other high-latitude places deal with the characteristics of tundra environments; limitations to coastline settlements as a result of tidal, storm, and erosional processes).

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