Suzanne Smith usually teaches science to 8th grade students at the Kennedy Middle School in Natick, but in a few weeks she will be conducting her class through a streaming video chat live from Nova Scotia.
Smith received an Earthwatch Educator Fellowship to conduct research on climate change on a team with four other teachers. The nonprofit program brings volunteers to work on research in different regions of the world. Even though she’ll be far from her students, they will stay updated on her trip by reading her blog and having conversations with her through Skype, a free video-chatting service.
“The kids will be following my blog for at least a few days before we get in touch (on Skype), and they’ll be formulating questions based on what I’m telling them I’m doing out there,” Smith said. “So it’s basically going to be a conversation, more like a Q and A.”
She will leave on March 14 and a substitute teacher will take over. She said part of the fellowship money goes to the school to cover the expenses of a substitute teacher, so she feels confident taking the time away.
Her research will focus on the effect of climate change on different mammals. Her research team will be using GPS technology to map research areas in Nova Scotia and deploying camera traps to monitor more elusive animals.
Smith said she is excited to engage her students with her research, and show them how their science studies can be applied to real life.
Since her students are about to go into high school and will soon have the option to study science more seriously, Smith said she hopes her students will be inspired by her trip and realize that there are many opportunities in the field.
“These things are actually going on out there in the world, and there are people who are researching climate change and mammals, there are so many topics of research,” she said.
In 2006 Smith participated in an Earthwatch trip to Brazil. She enjoyed the experience and said her students had fun tracking her trip and were excited to learn about her research. She hopes to bring the same excitement to her students this year.
“It’s not just something they read about in a book and once you close the book its over and done with,” Smith said, “it’s very real.”