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JSEP 2020 Student Reflections Scroll down to read the stories

JSEP stands for the Joint Science Education Project, and normally brings students from Denmark, Greenland and the United States to Greenland for a 3 week polar field school. The 2020 program, due to travel limitations following COVID 19, is unique because it was able to bring more students together than it could in years past: 50 students (35 from the USA and 15 from Greenland and Denmark) collaborated and learned about polar science and other disciplines from June 30th to July 9th. They also made countless memories and connected with like-minded students their age. Here are perspectives from 5 of the U.S. students who were participated in the program.

July 9th, 2020 Presentation Day!

It’s the final day of JSEP and it’s been an incredible, inspiring, and humbling experience. My name is Anna Roodnitsky, and for the past two weeks I have been fortunate to work digitally among peers and mentors from all across the world; they each bring a different perspective to the scientific community, and I was honored to collaborate with them. I am from Des Moines, IA, and am a rising senior at Waukee High School. I am a lover of adventuring and getting my hands dirty in the great outdoors, and I was lucky to still be able to do both while participating in this innovative program. At home, I am heavily involved in music--I am a drum major for our marching band and also play bass clarinet--and I also volunteer at the Science Center of Iowa. My heritage is Ukrainian, so I cherished getting to learn about other people’s unique backgrounds.

Some of my favorite aspects of the program was the way it was structured: the first week we signed up for “classes” or modules where we worked with and learned from either a Dartmouth fellow or professor. The disciplines included ice cores and engineering, albedo and the polar regions, fish life history, soils-plant interactions, sound mapping, and food sustainability. The modules I had were ice cores, soil, and sound, and I got to do everything from constructing an ice core rig prototype, counting mycorrhizal root tips, and creating immersive sound maps. All of the JSEP students were sent a package with a plethora of lab materials that we got to use both indoors and outdoors while taking samples and collecting data. I personally loved also getting to compare results and experiences in small Zoom Breakout rooms; combating the challenge of being so far apart from one another was something I thought would hinder the program more, but everyone’s open mind, kind hearts, and passion for learning permeated through the screen and filled my days with laughter and community.

JSEP brings together students and teachers from three different countries--Denmark, Greenland, and the USA--and I believe strongly in JSEP’s message of alliance and teamwork internationally because, at the end of the day, this planet is a home that we all share. After week one of modules, we all chose our favorite topic and worked both in groups and independently on a presentation that we then shared to the full group. I was on the soil research team, and our presentation was titled “sedimental connections.” I got to inform about glacial history within the USA and how it affects present day soil quality and the carbon cycle.

Overall, this research program will forever hold a special place in my heart and I wish to stay connected with all of the other students as we all continue our journeys growing as scientists, engineers, and people. Thank you to the Dartmouth fellows, Erica Wallstrom and Lauren Culler (program coordinators), and everyone in Greenland and Denmark who showed so much kindness in these peculiar times. Every day we started off with a group warm up session, and my favorite quote that was shared with us came from the first day: “The quality I look for most is optimism: especially optimism in the face of reverses and apparent defeat. Optimism is true moral courage.” -Ernest Shackleton (polar explorer)

~Anna Roodnitsky (Des Moines, IA); Rising senior at Waukee High School Khuyen

July 9th, 2020 8:30pm EDT

A button in red flashed on my screen: Leave Meeting.

It was the final minute before JSEP ended and I felt hesitant leaving the two weeks of virtual meetings filled with laughter, revelations, and connections. But that’s not to say I had no trace of uncertainty towards the online-format in the beginning; see, I live in a noisy studio in eastside San Jose--particularly in a low-income community--so I was insecure of background noises and that my education will not be sufficient when pitted against students in well-funded schools.

In retrospect, I was wrong.

The JSEP community was the most welcoming people I have ever met. Throughout the sessions, I never felt excluded because every question that I asked was thoroughly explained by a Dartmouth fellow, director, or mentor (shoutout to all of you!). There was a day when I had missed an entire Zoom meeting--due to unstable connections--but within ten minutes, I had Amelia (my group’s mentor) and Natalie (our technology coordinator) aiding me by recording the sessions and updating me frequently on the progress of our research. And my fellow teammates? They were the quintessence of collaboration. No drafting board? Google Jamboard became our new “pin-board.” No in-person conversations? Whatsapp solved that.

If JSEP could be pinned by one word, I would describe it as an “and.”

We are serious and goofy. We are scientists and artists.

The latter had been a challenge for me to visualize before JSEP as I was raised with the belief that science was composed of “hard-data,”which contrasted with visual arts--a field that I also pursue. The sound module that Clara led showed me otherwise; merging ecological sounds with that of STEM components (eg. sound pollution, disintegrating icebergs). These lessons pushed me to combine fields I thought were polarizing. Now, I challenge myself to use the canvas as a medium besides data-points to voice awareness for Earth-science.

It has been a highlight of my summer to work with everyone from the U.S, Greenland, and Denmark; I will implement the experience--from cultural immersion to polar science--to my community as we shift to online platforms.

A huge thank you to everyone at Dartmouth for making this possible! I can not be more grateful to receive guidance from experts and converse with students around the globe; it is not an everyday occurrence that programs like JSEP appear in my community.

So when the screen buzzed “5 seconds until meeting closes,” I couldn’t help but feel fulfilled in the end.

Me recording for the Sound Module
Our soil team in action! (left to right): Roman, Khuyen, Alicia, Katie, Annie (+ Samuel, Celia, Chloe, Sarah, and Amelia!)

--Khuyen Nguyen (San Jose, CA); Rising senior at Yerba Buena High School

Wallis Kyle

Amidst a national health crisis, a social justice movement, and global unrest...The Joint Science Education Project has genuinely united students from across the globe during one of the most dividing times in history… And above all else, and all that I have learned in these past two weeks, JSEP has given me hope during a time where hopelessness was seemingly creeping in on the horizon. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

The Dartmouth fellows, professors, and JSEP facilitators were incredibly hard working given the current circumstances, to provide an amazing opportunity for high school students who are passionate about environmental science. After months in isolation, I felt an overwhelming sense of community and belonging. As we learned remotely this year, an essence of empowerment grew amongst our group. I felt empowered because in the midst of completely unprecedented circumstances, a group of 35 (incredibly hardworking) teenagers, from different time zones across the U.S worked for hours, collaboratively, every single day. I want to express my deepest gratitude for the entire JSEP team, Erica Wallstrom and Lauren Culler, for coordinating the JSEP experience and providing all of the students with a truly amazing learning experience.

The most rewarding aspect of the 2020 JSEP team was working amongst equally motivated students and Dartmouth mentors, in a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment. Through immersive guidance, challenging activities, and group discussions, JSEP continuously reminded me that I have power to affect change in a rapidly changing world. In my first JSEP module, I learned about ice core engineering from David Clemens, Dartmouth fellow, and Mary R.Albert, professor of Engineering at Dartmouth. We designed and created an ice core extractor prototype, which was truthfully the most fun I’ve had since quarantine began. In the Soils Module, we counted and identified mycorrhizal roots tips and discussed their ecological benefits. Participating in these activities reminded me of my purpose and further sparked my passion for environmental and polar science. Throughout the program, the process of collecting data with students from Greenland and Denmark, and internalizing their unique perspectives, proved to me that during turbulent times, there is a generational wave of students who are prepared to step up, if just pointed in the right direction.

Wallis Kyle (New York, NY); Rising senior at The Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics

Roman Shirodkar

July 9th, 2020

When I first heard about JSEP I was originally captivated by the prospect of travelling to Greenland and learning about arctic science, ecology, and culture. As COVID-19 grew into a worldwide issue, and it became more apparent that the traveling aspect of JSEP would have to be cancelled for everyone’s safety, I was unsure of how this type of international program could support all of its educational facets without compromising interactiveness. These concerns proved to not hold any truth however, because the program was both interactive in its ability for students/teachers to share a collaborative science environment, and its emphasis on hands-on learning with guidance from online instruction.

These elements of JSEP were best exemplified during the development of our research projects (the final week). Each student was able to choose their research group based on five areas of interest related to the modules taught in the program’s first week. Each module in the first week was guided by a Dartmouth fellow or Graduate student and related to arctic science (The six modules: Soils/mycorrhizal fungi, Sound art, Ice core engineering, Food sustainability, Fish/evolution, and Albedo). Since I have a fascination with entomology, and I enjoyed the soil/mycorrhizal fungi module, I decided to participate in the Soil team research project.

Learning about Greenlandic culture, Danish culture, meeting so many amazing people, learning about new arctic science topics in the modules, and redefining my perspective on the bridge between art/science were some of the most enriching and gratifying experiences I’ve had while participating in JSEP; however, the research process was the most rewarding aspect. With the guidance of two or more JSEP educators to help the students maintain direction, we were able to construct a fully realized research project in our given time frame of three days. The JSEP educators were able to successfully create a comfortable online learning setting where every student felt like their suggestions were being considered. For someone who is usually hesitant to speak in groups, I found myself collaborating with the other students and speaking frequently in order to devise methods of data collection and analysis. Over the course of three days we developed a plan to investigate the soil differences between each of our diverse locations and were able to do real fieldwork in our own backyards. With the help of our team educators, who generously devoted their time to me on separate Zoom sessions when I needed assistance or had a question, our group finalized a presentation. The research project gave me the opportunity to learn about each team members’ state and increased my understanding of the research process. Additionally, it allowed me to connect with other like minded individuals who shared a passion for science.

The synergism between online educational instruction and hands on activities was surprisingly effective in teaching me about conducting research over long distances. As someone who plans on pursuing a career in research, this experience will be an invaluable asset for me if I ever engage in a research project where the circumstances may not allow for regular contact between individuals (as is common when doing research with people from other countries).

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the hard work of Erica Wallstrom, Lauren Culler, and all of the other JSEP educators in making this program possible and giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a talented group of people. I also want to thank Amelia Fitch and Matt Ayres for their leadership in our research project and patiently helping me with my many questions.

Obtaining a soil sample from my local forest in order to collect data for the soil research project

Obtaining a soil sample from my local forest in order to collect data for the soil research project

Gabrielle Piña July 9th 7:34 pm

As a New Yorker who is constantly surrounded by diverse groups of people, I thought that learning with students from the US, Greenland, and Denmark would feel just like another day in the city… I couldn’t be more wrong. JSEP shone a light on an area of cultural exchange that one doesn’t experience by simply being in the same environment as people from different countries. JSEP taught us how to learn, collaborate, problem solve, and think critically as global learners with people who live as close as a few to as far as hundreds of miles away. Being able to come together with people from all over the world has shaped the way I think about not only science, but people, identity and immersion in a way that really captures the essence of global unity within the sciences.

Before JSEP, I never would have thought that scientific research could help people connect in a way other than academically or educationally. However, now that I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to put that idea to the test, I can say that the learning I did at JSEP expands way beyond the classroom. For my final project, I was a part of the Ice Team. My sub-group in specific conducted lab experiments testing how sediments impact the melting rate of ice. That’s some pretty scientific stuff right there! How did I manage to learn about culture through such intense science? I have JSEP to thank for being able to answer that question.

We all conducted research in very different places; New York, Florida, Michigan, Greenland— the list really does go on and on. But because my group had such varying experiment locations, it was necessary for us to discuss how each of our environmental factors contributed towards our results. Discussing where we live in terms of our research not only broadened our scientific perspective, but also encouraged us to listen to what these different parts of the world are like. I feel so lucky to have been amongst such a wonderful, diverse, intelligent, and thoughtful group of students and staff who were so open to sharing their cultures and lifestyles. This summer truly was an invaluable experience that connected two bridges, culture and science, often seen as two ends of a spectrum, in a way that impacted the learning of everyone involved. Thank you, JSEP 2020!

An example of my ice experiment (one of many done in several different places) conducted on an NYC sidewalk.

Copyright © 2020 Institute of Arctic Studies at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College

Created By
Natalie Stephenson
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