Museum Makes the World Smaller

Houston kids interact with scientists studying the coldest spots on the earth. Officials at the Houston Museum of Natural Science hope to use the live communication tool more often to educate. Pat Hernnadez has more.


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The Burke Baker Planetarium is packed for the new film “Ice Worlds”. Doctor Carolyn Sumner is vice president of astronomy and physical science at the Museum. She says the film examines the relationship between life and ice.

“And we also talked about the ice worlds of the solar system. What we think is that ice an important topic and should be isolated and look at everything we know about ice, because our goal is to understand what all of these changes in the Arctic and Antarctic mean. ‘How significant are they? What’s causing them?  Is this natural, are we contributing?’ All of these questions depend upon us understanding the behavior of ice.” image of man on artic ice

The film’s showing is part of the fourth International Polar Year: a huge scientific program that focuses on the Arctic and Antarctic regions. After the showing, questions from the kids posed to glaciologist Ian Jochin In Greenland, were typical.

“How do they get warm water?

Jochin: “Warm water? Well, we heat water on the stove to wash our dishes with, but that’s really the only warm water we have.”

But high school students who volunteer as part of the Museum’s eco-teams, got a little more out of the presentation.

“Regardless of whether they understand it now I think it will still instill a sense of curiosity in them.”
“It would like, move people. You know, to inspire people to actually make a difference to the world, even though like it’s not our problem like now, but it will be a good thing to help out.”

“It reminds you that there is something greater than you out there that you ought to help with, and not be so selfish with your resources.”

image man on iceCoordinating the interaction between here and Greenland is colleague Twila Moon. She spent time on the frozen tundra.

“I love thinking and talking about the ice sheet. It’s just a completely different world, and there, when you’re in the middle of the ice sheet, it never melts.”
image of artic ice
She says so many animals and plants depend on the Arctic ice.

“We don’t understand what’s gonna happen to them, and we also don’t understand how quickly those changes are gonna happen. So, we’re really trying to get a handle on how is the climate affecting the systems that are there, and a lot of them are systems that we didn’t understand to begin with.”

Doctor Sumner with the Museum says video conferencing is not easy.

“This is a real experiment at the Museum, and maybe for museums everywhere, to see if a teleconference can be as strong as a video conference, if you support it with a live person, a live scientist, and you support it with graphic story material.”

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.

image artic iceThere is more information about the entire expedition at this link:

And, they have daily blog posts at this link:

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