Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Approaching the End

Well friends, we are quickly approaching our end. It seems like there is no time left to do all of the things that we still want to. This past Sunday at 4am the ABC whaling crew caught a whale! It was an unusually long wait, because the winds had closed the lead for much of the whaling season. At this point, it is very dangerous out on the ice as everything shifts and begins to melt. The whole town was excited to get one at last! After a whale is caught, they have a whale feed for the community. THey cook up a ton of whale and everyone is invited over to eat. We stopped in and got a share of the maktak and organs. Maybe we will save some for you all at home??

Last night we went to a special museum tour. It is in a man's house. He has collected artifacts throughout his life. Some of the artifacts in there are 5,000 years old. He also has a big elk, polar bear, grizzly bear, fox and muskox stuffed in there. He said that Coca-Cola used to use his polar bear. It was a really unique place and is visitable by appointment only. We also tried to find a polar bear (from the safety of a car - don't fear). We would really like to see one before we leave! But we still have one last night...

Barrow High Graduation - May 16

We went to the Barrow High School graduation this weekend. Unfortunately it was really long and we able to stay for the diploma part. However, I thought it was really interesting to see how it was done. Since it is a small school, it is much different than my graduation at the Target Center. They had it in their gym and got to pick someone to walk in with. Like the other graduations and ceremonies we have attended, they had the baleen held above them as they entered to the sound of drums. Then, they had a rose ceremony for graduates to thank all of those that have helped them and they also had lots of scholarships that the graduates received.

In their freshman year, this class had about 100 students. ON this day, 52 graduated. This fact kept me thinking. This made the fact that the graduation rate here is 50% very obvious to me. I had forgotten that this place had those statistics. It had seemed so normal. I did see a lot of students "disappear" for vacation 2 weeks at a time and there still remains students in my classes that I have never met. But, these students made it to school most of the year before this I assumed. However, they now have almost no chance of passing and may be the first steps to their dropout. I taught 2 freshman classes here. It is very likely that by the time they are seniors, one whole class will no longer be here in school.

Out on the Ice - May 9

This morning we were very lucky and got hooked up with one of the scientists Kim, who let us go out with another scientist Bryan out on the ice. They got us snowmachines and a guide named Nok and all drove out on the Arctic Ocean to the wonder that is the pressure ridge. I had never been on a snowmachine before so I was excited. It was a cold, cold day and we were all bundled head to toe and did as much as we could to stay warm. I could never imagine the January weather here! As we rode out it suddenly became another world. It felt like we were passing through a forest of trees with hills and mountains all around us. There was so much to see! However, it was all ice and snow that made this beautiful landscape. This was the pressure ridge. Mounds of snow and ice built up from the pressure of ice slamming and pushing into other ice piles.

The lead (the open water between landfast ice and floating ice pieces) was closed still as it has been much of this whaling season. It has prevented the 56 whaling crews in Barrow from getting a whale this year :(. So we didn't get to see open water, but we set up a tent and drilled some holes in the ice to begin fishing. We drilled a big hole for collecting copepods for the toxicology study that we learned about when we first got here. They are testing the effects of oil dispersion on these organisms to see how it would effect the ecosystem. We caught some jellyfish and krill (shrimp) in the plankton net, but did not catch many copepods. I might add that I was the only one who caught a copepod.

When we were out there, we also met up with some whale biologists who were interested in checking for some whale/seal sounds because they had been bored for so long with the lead closed. They dropped a microphone down our whole and let us listen in. We heard some bearded seal which sounded just like sirens in the distance. Weird how it sounds like that! We also got to explore the snow and ice a bit. We did not want to wander too far because we did not want to get eaten and stuff. But it looked really cool. Things looked so small and then when you get close to it you found it was huge! It was nforgettable. -Jenny

Saturday, May 16, 2009


It has been fifteen long years since Old Major has passed away. The rebellions have since been forgotten. Snowball has not been seen in the area for quite some time and Squealer has been keeping very busy turning black into white. The windmill is working and Pilkington has been keeping his nose out of our business. Boxer is gone and there has been much controversy in regards to my decision to send him to the hospital. The other comrades thought I was sending him to the knackers, but in truth, I did so diligently send him to the hospital in order for him to be fixed. Consequently and sadly, he did not make it out of surgery.

Back to the basics and main point of this post. I am writing to inform all of you, comrades, that I shall step down from my throne here on the Manor Farm, for I have accepted a new job position somewhere you are all unfamiliar with. That place is the northern most city in the country of the USA. The place, comrades, is Barrow, Alaska. I feel that this is the right position for me. The other comrades here agree whole heartily with me. The past is behind, the present is a gift, and the future is yet to begin. Will we ever reach the future? I do not know, good comrades. That is up for you to decide. Remember the commandment, comrades..."All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Good Day,

Comrade Napoleon

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekend May 2nd

On this weekend we had some really fun adventures. The Jo(h)ns were still here to enjoy it with us too. On Friday after school we all went to the local heritage center. At the center they had a whaling exhibit and others that detail the local culture of the North Slope. That night, Sam and Jenny went to bed really early and got up at 2 a.m. and took a taxi into town. They volunteered at an all-night lock-in at the high school. The lock in was a fundraiser for the Barrow cheerleaders and the sophomore class.
After watching elementary and middle school children go crazy from too much sugar and pass out from no sleep, they wandered around the town in the morning stopping at landmarks, hotels, the airport and napped. Soon enough it was time for the local rummage sale! The whole group met up at the rummage sale and we searched for some good buys. We were all pretty successful at finding some souvenirs at a reasonable price.
That evening we learned the local card game Snerts from our friends at the college. Some say its for old people, but we caught on quick and really got into it. Later that evening we also made a big fort / indoor igloo. Ahh! To be a kid again...
That night, the sky was clear and the midnight sun was shining very brightly. The Jo(h)ns left the next day, we miss them!

Dog Mushing - April 25th and 28th

A very nice man by the name of Geoff Carol was kind enough to take us all dog sledding with him! He could only take 2 at a time, so we took our turns and had a blast. It was the coolest thing I have ever experienced. He is the only person in Barrow who still does dog mushing. All of the dog teams have been replaced by snowmachines. They are more efficient and easier to take care of. So, the tradition of dog mushing is no longer practical. Geoff got into dog mushing from a couple of Minnesotans who were planning an expedition to the north pole. He joined them and went to the north pole with them in 1987. They started in Greenland and it took him 56 days to get there.

The dogs that he has were so, so, friendly and cute. They are Greenland huskies, which are not the same type as they use for the racing, like the Iditarod. The ones that they use in the Iditarod are used for speed and the Greenland huskies are slower, but have a thicker coat and are more suited for survival. The average lifespan is like 8 years. I loved the dogs they were quite adorable and soft, and beautiful and friendly.

When Sam and I went it was colder, so Geoff made us put on big parkas to stay warm. He wanted to make sure that we enjoyed ourselves and did not freeze to death. Some of us got to help harness up the doges. They were barking like crazy because they were so excited to go. They are chained up in a pen, each with their own little house (box), but live to go on mushing Riding was so fun. It was so beautiful to watch the dogs running and pulling us along. We used the words “Ha” for right, “Ge” for left, “Kitta” for go (inupiat) and “whoa” for stop. We each got to drive the sled and stand on the rutters on the back. Geoff took us across the lagoon, the tundra behind Ilisagvik and across the the arctic ocean. On the way back one time, he wrapped a rope around his waist and skiied back to his house as we drove the sled! After we returned, we unharnessed the dogs and got to feed each dog 2 fish and a blubber chunk. It was a really unforgettable experience.

Friday, May 1, 2009

We've found many ways to keep ourselves entertained (AKA avoid doing homework) like dominoes, walks on the ice (oops), hide and seek, and movies on the big screen. We've also taken lots of pictures. Here are some highlights of a photoshoot we did thanks to a camera timer.

There are many things to be said about Barrow; one of them is certainly that the it's difficult to stay completely sane.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hello all,

We are very pleased to announce that the two Jo(h)ns have arrived on top of the world. We were so happy to see some familiar faces in the airport on Saturday evening. Our good friend Steve Culbertson guided John and Jon on an Arctic tour of the city. At dinner, we met Jay, a biologist studying the impact of oil on copepods and fish, specifically cod. Jay was so kind to ask them out on the ice for some scientific research (STAY OFF THE ICE). You are only on the coast of the Arctic Ocean once, right?

Anyway, we are very glad to have the GAC company here.

A lot has been going on. Sam and Jenny went dog sledding, which we will go into further detail the next post. We are experiencing a heat wave...36 degrees! That may sound strange, but it is hot for this area. The ice is melting on the roads and the snow is turning black.

Emily, Carol, and I were invited to the KBRW Radio Station by Hayden, a dorm parent and a DJ for the station. I had my radio debut during this time. Hayden recorded me playing two of my songs the night before and they were played at 3:00 in the afternoon. The songs were "The Pirate Song" and "My Sister's Dream." All three of us said a few things about our experience on air on top of the world. 'Twas really exciting.

Well...I bid ye all farewell. Keep posting. We are glad to read your responses. Stay warm down in the lower 48. It is safe to say that we are adapting to this weather. I was outside in shorts and a fleece yesterday and I was comfortable. Ta-ta.

Tony JoLo :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

School and Food

Hello Everyone!!

An update from Jenny, here. Things have been going great here in Barrow. This last week, I started teaching 3 different Geometry classes. One of them is 9th grade and the other two are 10th grade. In all of the classes I am beginning a unit with Trigonometry and was excited to teach a lesson called "Whaling Trigonometry." Since the Spring Whaling season is underway here, it was a perfect medium for the students to connect with and see the application of trigonometry. Lots of times, trig uses examples about finding the heights of trees or mountains, but they don't have that here! It truly is such a unique place where kids do not necessarily have a grasp of what we might call "normal." Who can imagine living in a world where you never see trees?

This week, they had a traditional Inupiat lunch at the high school for the whaling captains and some teachers. I got to go to it and try all of the traditional foods that they eat here. They served kiniqtaq (sun-dried jerky-like seal meat), maktaaq (beluga skin and blubber), maktak (bowhead skin and blubber), aluutagaaq (caribou with gravy and rice), boiled smelt, frozen raw whale meat, eskimo donuts (fried bread) and aqpik pie (salmon berry jello/whip cream pie). Some things were great, some things okay, and some things I am fine that I live without.

On Thursday I spent the morning observing in the middle school in a seventh grade classroom. It was so much fun! The teacher I was working with let me help with the lessons and shared lots of good ideas with me. She is retiring after this year, but was eager to pass on all of her math teaching knowledge! I am hoping to get back there again, but we will have to see, since I am teaching more at the high school.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


The cold weather has not bothered me at all here in Barrow. What has bothered me is the DRY!!!ness. In just the past 2 days, I have had 3 bloody noses (including one while I was teaching my first graders about the difference between are, is, and am). My skin is also not liking this dry weather. I put on lotion and chapstick but it doesn't really make a difference. Advice for those who are prone to bloody noses and dry skin: Barrow would not be an ideal vacation spot.

Other than that, we're having a great time! We'll try to update later on how our weekend was!


Monday, April 20, 2009

What we've been up to

We're in our third week here in Barrow and in the schools. Most of us started teaching some classes this week so we've been busy planning lessons and getting ready for each day.

This past weekend we spent a lot of time at the high school at a basketball tournament. Tony and Sam played on the high school team and Rachael represented the college. Both teams did really well and made it far, which was great, but it also meant more time away from our beds and our homework. We did have a lot of chances to get to know more of the locals here and it was nice to be involved in something that is so important to the people here. It seems like everyone either plays basketball or has a family member who does! We were even able to watch a lot of our students play basketball. It was fun to see them in a different environment.

We also made an important discovery this weekend: "30 Days of Night" a movie that is supposed to take place in Barrow is nothing like the real Barrow. Whenever we told anyone that we had watched the movie they laughed.

This will be another busy week for us and then on Saturday John Clementson and John Grinell will be joining us. It will be fun to show them around!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Muktuk and (raw) Tuttu

We had quite an interesting dessert this evening. After supper we were heading back to our rooms and we found our good friend Ruth cutting up some Muktuk. Muktuk is the skin and blubber of a whale. We each tried some and let's just say we won't be in a hurry to try it again any time soon. Once the Muktuk was mostly gone (with very little help from any of us) Ruth got out some raw, frozen Tuttu--caribou. We're told it is especially good dipped in seal oil. Here are some highlights of our special treats:

Emily and Rachael right before trying the Muktuk
Jenny's first ever taste of whale
Sam and Carol: Before and After

Close up of the Muktuk

Monday, April 13, 2009

More on Barrow Life...

Hey friends, family and followers!

Here are 4 links that relate to Barrow what we are doing here. They might help you get a better idea of what we are up to:

(1) This is a link to a National Geographic video on whaling in Barrow. The Spring whaling season is just beginning here. It is vital to the culture and problematic for schooling. Our dorm parent Ruth showed us the full length film, but this is a quick 3 minute version. We recommend the full length if you can get it.

(2) This is the link to the school district we are working in. The North Slope Borough School District serves the entire North Slope of Alaska, including several small, rural villages. Check out the picture below for the villages.

(3) The place where we sleep and eat and study is Ilisagvik College in Barrow, the one and only tribal college. Take virtual tour, read what we are eating, check for polar bear alerts and more with this link.

(4) Athletics are huge here in Barrow (guess there isn't much else to do). ESPN has an article and video special that they did on the Barrow Whalers football team. Details on the travel and the million dollar stadium that was just built can be found in this article and video.

Basketball Madness

Last week, Rachael was asked to join a community league basketball team by the P.E. teacher at the elementary. Rachael played her first game in Barrow, Alaska on Friday night. Her team name is call the Tiipaks which is translated to mean "girly girly." The Tiipaks won their game on Friday night which sent them into the Championship game on Saturday. Rachael soon found out that these Alaskan girls are rough and physical playing basketball. She has several bruises throughout her body (with two bruises on her legs each about the size of a softball). The Championship game was a very exciting game with Rachael playing quite well. In the first half, she had three points, but in the second half she came out ready to score. She was three for three from behind the three point arch (with one being an NBA three). It was really neat how the crowd was cheering for the new girl that no one knew because she was from Minnesota. The Tiipaks ended up winning the Championship by two points and Rachael ended the game with fifteen points!

As the Champions, each player on the Tiipaks team received a t-shirt. A Most Valuable Player (MVP) award was also given to out and Rachael was the recipient of that! For being the MVP, she received a MVP windbreaker jacket. In Barrow, they have weekend basketball tournaments often and it will be exciting to go to another one soon!

"Serious Science"

This past Saturday, April 11th we all went out for a lovely afternoon watching a middle school IM volleyball tournament and Hopson Middle School. Then, Sam, Tony and I got a ride from the middle school prinicipal to NARL (National Arctic Research Lab) - which is a name for the area partially connected to our living quarters at Ilisagvik College. Every Saturday, the scientists that are in town give a talk open to the community on the projects they are working on here in Barrow. We decided we would check it out.

It was in the brand new science building behind Ilisagvik and they offered great snacks for the talk. The talk was on oil spills in the Arctic and it was very understandable. They presenter talked about the things that they need to consider in the case of an oil spill, different clean-up methods and described what they were working on for their project here. They were study some types of organismz that live under the ice and how they would be affected by oil spills. From there they can predict what might happen to the rest of the food web and surrounding environment.

Then Steve Hastings the senior scientist of NARL (we are friends, we always see him in the dining hall) gave us a tour of the building and showed us the different rooms that each experiment/study is for. There was some laser beam thing, the freezers where they are studying the oil spill organisms, and the archeology room where they are excavating the point (navuk) with local college and high school students. That one is really cool. Barrow Point is slowly going underwater (probably due to global warming), so they need to work fast to excavate the graves, fossils and history. Steve then took us out to the “trailers” where they were doing some sort of eco-physics project. It was the coldest moment I had ever experienced here in Barow. It was about a 3 minute walk, but we had to go over huge snowdrifts created by the wind which also made it really cold. It was surely a true taste of the tundra. The scientists in the trailers explained what they were doing there and Steve described the project as “This is serious science.” Coming from the senior scientist at the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, I'm pretty sure we witnessed something really cool and quite a big deal. To be honest, we really could not understand what they were really doing there. You can look at the picture and let me know if you can tell!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Elementary Update

This is Emily. I (along with Carol and Rachael) am at Fred Ipalook Elementary here in Barrow. Unlike the other 5, I have been in my own classroom all week. This session of student teaching I am working in a 1st grade classroom. It's been quite a change from 4th grade. These kids are so full of energy!! Even though 1st grade isn't quite my niche, I'm having a lot of fun and I'm beginning to appreciate all of my early elementary teachers more and more.

My cooperating teacher has kept me busy from the very first day. I've been working with small groups doing guided reading, running art projects, and reading many stories to the class. I also spend a lot of time with a small group of kids who need some extra help with math. I've also been going with them to their specialist classes. It's been very interesting to see how they are similar or different to specialists back home. They do have an Inupiat class 3 times a week that seems to be very unique to this area. It reminded me a lot of classes I had back in elementary school called Indian Ed. They learn about the Inupiat culture and learn numbers, colors, the pledge, and many other Inupiat words. They even get their own Inupiat names.

With testing going on in the school, everything has been a little crazy. Today is the last day of testing so I am looking forward to things settling down in the next few days.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is Sam! I have spent my first three days at Eben Hopson Middle School. The school was named after a former mayor who helped the Inuipuit get legal rights to their land in Alaska. I will be teaching 6th, 7th and 8th physical education. Unfortunately, the school does not offer health education. My assignment the last two days has been excruciatingly exciting = Hall Monitor! Tony and I were even able to serve breakfast one morning. We have many talents. Due to the 18+ hours of daylight student are not getting much sleep. A few of the middle school students were falling asleep during the tests so the principal's solution was to give them Mountain Dew!! Unique fix for a 7th grader in the middle of a state standardized test. This friday the school is having a free day for the students who behaved during testing. They get to bring their ipods, watch movies, ice cream sundeas ,and we are having a basketball tournament, and the school store is having a sale! Next Monday I should actually see a real class.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What up in BHS - Barrow High School

Hey there!

This is Jenny. I have spent the first 2 days of school in my placement at the high school. The others are placed in the middle and elementary school. I am placed with 2 teachers named Jerry and Emily. They both have lots of experience teaching on the North Slope. This week, every school in the area has state testing going on. Most of these are the tests to meet AYP, but at the high school they also have the graduation qualifying exam. If they don't pass, they don't graduate. So, this week will be pretty relaxed for us and we will not see much "normal" operation until next week. This has left me with lots of time to wander the school and become familiar with my surroundings and to take time to really get to know the other staff in the building.

Yesterday regular classes met and reviewed for the math exam. The biggest shock for me was the class size. The class sizes I have are approximately 8, 11, 8, 18 and 10 students. These are just estimates I made. Often times, there are many students missing. They like to stay up with the sun here and then sleep in and miss school. Motivation is tough. But, it is also a small town and a small school of about 240. Small, I have never experienced. Hooray for new things!

Even though I am not teaching yet, somehow the days are still exhausting. The light has not interfered with my sleep at all!

Monday, April 6, 2009

What would you do if you KNEW you were about to be killed by a polar bear????

Carol: I would hop into the Arctic Ocean and hopefully sink to speed up the process

Jenny: I would take awesome pictures and then throw the camera so that the world could see my last glorious moments

Rachael: I will turn on my pretty looks, flash it my pearly whites, grab on to its fur and jump on its back, and take my 8-second ride of fame

Emily: I can't think of a better entry in an obituary, so I would let him do whatever he needs to do to kill me quickly

Tony: I would whistle a fine Scottish Aire while doing a Irish jig thinking in my mind of eating a grilled bratwurst on a bun with saurkraut, onion, jalapenos, and ketchup

Sam: I would pee on it

Tony gets eaten by a polar bear (almost)

Well hello friends,

Tony Bologna here. I will start out with a little adventure that I embarked on on Monday morning at 2:00 in the am. I woke up at 1:50, hoping to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Since it was dark from 1:00-4:00, 2:00 would be a good time to see them. I walked about 200 yards and was standing on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. I waited quietly and mysteriously for the lights to appear. After about a minute, I looked down in the snow. I saw a pattern going up the slope, down the slope, up the slope, down the slope. I said to myself, "Well I'll be...those look like polar bear tracks." They were!!! Now, a number one rule here on the slope is not to venture off by yourself, especially at 2:15 in the am. You can call me dumb as I proceeded to take some sweet photos of the head-size paw prints. The lights never came and I scurried back to the dorm, like a snowshoe hare scampering across the frozen Arctic Tundra.

Little did I know that those tracks were fresh. The next day, a warning came out saying that college officials spotted tracks at around 2:30 in the am. I saw them at 2:15.

In all seriousness, polar bears are no joke. They will sneak up on you and they will eat you. People all over the school wondered what I was thinking. I don't know but I learned a lesson. I think I just missed that bear.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We have Arrived!

We are in Barrow Alaska! We all arrived safely even though Mt. Redoubt had its biggest eruption yesterday morning. They are still waiting on the "big" one though. The first flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage was 6 hours long - a little too long. The flight to Barrow was exciting because we got to speak with lots of people on the plane headed to Barrow as well. The Barrow airport was so tiny! The "baggage claim" was a man throwing luggage and boxes down a ramp.

We headed over to the college when we got here and found the place is pretty great. The dorms are well equipped with the things that we need and the food is supposedly really good. We will have to compare it to the Gustavus nationally ranked caf and see though! Last night we went out to eat a Pepe's and officially joined the "I crossed the Arctic Circle Club." Its always sunny here. We saw the sun begin to set yesterday at around 10pm over the Arctic Ocean (which just looks like snow and ice right now). We have been warned about polar bears and what to do and the weather warmed up for us so it is actually pretty nice. The buildings are definitely warm enough! We are usually sweating when we are inside. Today we are hoping to get out and enjoy some spring community events.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

4 days to go!!

This is the first of many blogs on how six student teachers from Minnesota are doing and what we are up to in Barrow, Alaska. We head out on Saturday and won't be back until May 21st. We'll keep everyone back home updated on our adventures in the classroom and in the town of Barrow. Stay tuned for more!