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Willowbrook Students Visit Antarctica Via Skype

Third graders from Northbrook and Glenview spoke with penguin scientists stationed on the icy continent.

Willowbrook School third grade teacher David Karnoscak and his students have visited 14 countries and six continents so far this year, and they haven't even left the classroom. By using Skype and The Global Classroom Project, Karnoscak connects his class with educators across the globe.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, all the third grade classrooms met in Willowbrook's Collaboration Cafe and used Skype to meet with penguin research scientist Jean Pennycook, who is currently stationed in Antarctica. It's summer on the continent, but temperatures remain below freezing.

Pennycook answered the children's questions and talked about how a scientist lives a "very rustic" life, while conducting research in Antarctica.

Pennycook said her favorite penguin is the Adelie, because it is an active and engaging animal, as opposed to the Emperor penguin, which just "stands around."

She there are more Adelie penguins than any other penguin species, they live in the south and have to cross many kilometers of ice to reach where they can build their nests in the spring.

Students heard about the living conditions in Antarctica — a solar panel is the scientists' only source of electricity, which they use to charge their computers, cameras and radios.

All waste products are stored in big drums and must be hauled out by helicopter after the scientist's eight week stay. Pennycook showed the students the tent where she lives, as well as the outdoor scenery, which consisted of rocks and ice, and a view of the ocean. She said Antarctica is "stark, like the moon."

Melted snow is used for washing, not drinking, because of its high salt content. She stated that there are no plants, trees or bushes in Antartica, nor is there a permanent population of human beings. Animals that live there only survive by eating creatures and fauna from the ocean. Students also heard about the different types of seals, whales, seagulls and skua that live in the region.

Karnoscak, the Willowbrook teacher, emphasized that his passion for Skyping around the world has rubbed off on his students. In December, the class Skyped with students in Greece and exchanged holiday greetings. He says he enjoys seeing the kids becoming global citizens, who are learning about different cultures and people. They recently visited a school in Nepal, and everyone was very surprised at how different it was from Willowbrook School.

"Our favorite game is Mystery Skype, where students take turns asking geographic questions about an opponent's location. Students must use geographic knowledge, map skills and logical reasoning to find where another class is located," said Karnoscak.

The other third grade teachers who collaborated with David Karnoscak on the Antarctica activity were Allison Safran and Jessica Gomberg.

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