GE Instructor honored with scientific trip to Alaska

A sixth grade science teacher from Piedmont is getting ready to swap the summer heat for an arctic freeze.

Melissa Lau has been selected to join a PolarTREC project to study climate change in the North Pole.

Lau is one of just a dozen teachers selected to participate in this summer’s special expedition, and she is hoping to bring back some valuable knowledge for her students.

Lau's class is all about hands-on learning. Usually the kids are doing most of the work, but their teacher is preparing to embark on an experiment of her own.

“Utqiagvik is as far north you can get in Alaska and still be on land,” Lau said about her destination.

For the month of June, she will be exploring the Arctic Circle with the group PolarTREC, which brings teachers and researchers together for projects all over the globe.

Lau said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this real life, hands-on experience and education for myself that I can bring back for my students.”

Lau's group will study the effect of warmer temperatures on vegetation near the North Pole. She said research is already showing plants there are flowering earlier than they used to and hibernating later in the year than normal.

“That, in turn, would be affecting…any of the other plants that are dependent on each other, flowering at certain times, animals moving through the area that expect certain things to happen at certain times,” she explained.

While the debate is still open on the causes behind global warming, Lau aims to show her students that they can help slow these trends by making changes here at home.

“You don’t have to be a scientist,” she said. “You don’t have to be an engineer to solve the problem. You can do something in your everyday life and that, to me, is what I want my students to be able to leave a lesson feeling that they were empowered.”

Lau will be documenting her journey through social media and her PolarTREC blog. To connect, click here.