Scientists in Schools

Ice Core Analyst Melts Tropics

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  • Kay Chaffey, Girraween Primary School, Girraween, Northern Territory
  • Dr Barbara Frankel, Australian Antarctic Division & Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC

In late 2009, when rural Darwin teacher Kay Chaffey heard about the opportunity for a long-distance partnership with a Hobart-based Ice Core Analyst, she registered for Scientists in Schools. Barbara and Kay initially established their partnership via email and telephone. This communication proved an excellent stimulus for their ongoing work and subsequently, Barbara decided to head north and visit the school in person.

Barbara & Kay

Barbara's visit advertised by the school

In Term 2, leading up to Barbara's visit, two Year 5/6 classes at Girraween Primary School began a unit of work on Antarctica. Meanwhile, Barbara packed her Antarctic cold weather suit and created a blog site to keep students updated on her trip from Tasmania to the Northern Territory.

During her visit to the NT, Barbara spent three mornings with the students, which began with the students showing her their permaculture farm, complete with newly arrived buffalo calves.



During her time with the students, Barbara discussed her own work as well as the variety of jobs available in Antarctica. Using glacier goo, she simulated the spread of the ice sheet and then, in small groups, students made their own glacier goo and measured its rate and spread on a map of Antarctica.

Lochie, one of the students commented "I thought Antarctica was just ice but you showed me what it really is. I also want to thank you for telling me what you do in Antarctica as a glaciologist. That inspired me to work there when I'm older."

For Kay, the benefit for her students was obvious and all involved were thrilled with the experience. Kay reported "the students said how fantastic the time with Barbara was and how it brought the science and everything they have learned about it to life."


Barbara's thoughts on her experience clearly demonstrate the success of her visit. She stated "the students comments were just terrific and made me feel so honoured and humbled! I still can't get over the children's excitement and attention when I was with them! They remained engaged with what I had to say and hung on every word! I really didn't expect that level of concentration from such young people!"

Barbara received some lovely thank you letters from the students at Giraween Primary School after her visit there.