At the end of this month, world-renowned scientists will gather on the Kenai Peninsula for a research expedition to be tracked by kids in classrooms around the world.
Two Southeast students will have a central role in the action.
Patricia Brown, a ninth-grader at Hoonah High School, and Selina Tolson, a 10th-grader at Hydaburg City School, were recently named as two of five Alaska students selected as "argonauts" for JASON Project XIII: Frozen Worlds.
Along with eight teachers and 20 students from the Lower 48, the Alaska students will participate in research and keep track of their experiences on the Internet for other students to follow. The students will be divided into two groups, with each group spending one week with the scientists starting Jan. 28.
"I'm a little jittery, but I think it will be fun," Brown said last week. "We're going to be going to the SeaLife Center in Seward and we're going to do studies of seals, put seal bones together and learn how to take care of the (marine animals)."
Tolson said her group will spend its week studying glaciers. That research will be based at Portage Glacier southeast of Anchorage.
The JASON Project, founded by Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard in 1989, travels to different locations each year. Researchers, teachers and students learn about each area's environment, how it works and how it is studied. Past destinations have included Hawaii, Iceland and Belize.
Facilitating direct contact between the research team and classrooms around the world is a major component of the project. Brown, Tolson and the rest of the team will keep online journals and conduct live satellite broadcasts during their time with the project to allow other students to learn about the research through their peers.
"It's cool," Tolson said. "I can learn stuff, and I'll be helping them learn stuff."
To be selected, students had to undergo a multi-part application process - including writing essays and making a video to test their communication skills.
For students remaining in the classroom, the project offers a curriculum - targeted at grades four through nine - aligned to state standards. In addition to science and math, other areas - including history, writing and literature - are incorporated. For example, this year's curriculum includes five novels relating to the areas of research.
Marla Browne of Juneau, state coordinator for the JASON Project, said a group of five trainers around the state has been working to educate teachers about incorporating the project in their classrooms.
Deb Hull, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, is one of those trainers. She said students involved in the project - whether first-hand or over the Internet - gain a lot.
"It's real life," Hull said. "It's so meaningful because you're learning about something as you are experiencing it."
The JASON Project can be followed in the Internet at www.jasonproject.org.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.