Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kevo Climate Research Station, Ivalo Lukio and Utsjoki Koulu

We observed three herds of reindeer on the drive from Ivalo airport to Kevo Climate Research Station. This herd was making its way across a lake whose surface looked perilously close to caving in under the weight of these small hoofed animals.  The reindeer made it, but not until after we unintentionally spooked them (with my orange coat) as we walked toward them to get a picture.

The drive from the Ivalo aiport to the Kevo Climate Science Research Station took about two hours and the drive took us past great expansive spaces of tundra.  We are above the Arctic Circle by about 435 kilometers.  The purpose of this trip is to visit two schools and learn a bit about climate research from the scientists in Kevo.

It felt strangely fabulous to wear my Parisian raincoat and "climate change research boots" in Lapland. They are the perfect combination!

Here is Dennis Grice basking in the fun of the new environment.

Kim Miller, Fulbright awardee and climate scientist, is our host at the research station.  She has been here since August and studies the gases that microscopic organisms emit in the tundra under different conditions.  She's hoping to compare her experimental results to what she collected in the Alaskan tundra during three previous summers.

The Kevo Research Station is part of the University of Turku, Finland, and houses many scientists in the spring, summer and fall.  Most of the scientists will start arriving in a few weeks when the snow is melted. Here are some of the housing and apartment units at the station.  We are staying with Kim in the apartment on the left.

Kim's research includes collecting vials of gases from the tundra - here you see them stored in our refrigerator before she travels with them to Rovaniemi for analysis.

Around the research station is a "carpet" of low-lying plants and berry bushes.  We're a little early to see these plants in bloom but they will be full of flowers (and then berries) in about one month.

Across this lake is the rest of the research station.  In the summer you can take a boat to get back and forth and in the winter you can take a snowmobile.  

We took a 5 km dirt road that enters from the opposite direction.

The seasonal "road" for snowmobiles.

This picture was taken early in the morning, or should I say, after the "white night."

Here is the sky at 11:00 at night.

You don't need bottled water in Lapland.

On site is a teepee, and in the center is a fire pit.

Above the fire pit hang reindeer skins you can use to sit on or as blankets for warmth.

Owl boxes for repair or reassignment.

We visited Ivalon Lukio (secondary school in Ivalo) which educates about 110 students and the students and staff were enthusiastically warm and welcoming. The students seem very content and the teachers say the children get a good education because the environment is small and the teachers know how each child learns. 

The building on the left houses students (aged 15-18) who travel long distances to get to school each day; they are allowed to live here during the week but they must go home on weekends unless they are given special permission.  There is no adult supervision in this housing and the students are responsible for their own cooking, etc.  

Here are some specifics for the school site from their web page:

This is a homework tally sheet from chemistry class.  Only about 10% of the students' grades are based upon homework - and that 10% is added only if all homework is completed.  Above you see the tally marks for how much homework the students completed.

Across Finland I have been repeatedly told that students are generally not assigned more than 3-6 problems per night per class for homework.

Out back the students were doing an art project with a visiting street artist from Sweden.

The visiting instructors had their baby sleeping in the stroller near the trees.  In Finland (and Iceland and Sweden, I guess) it is very typical for babies to nap in their strollers outside in the cold for 30 minutes or an hour.

Thank you to Ulla Hynonen, Ulla Keskitalo, Jaakko Joentakanen, Helena Lampinen, Maarit Lepistö, and Rodney Francett for a lovely, warm, and inspiring day.

At the Utsjoki Koulu (school in Utsjoki) there are only about 70 students for ages 7-18.  It's a quiet school and about half of the students are of Sámi heritage. In Finland, the children have the right to be taught in their mother tongue so in this school there are also Sámi language classes.  Many people in Finland are trying to show honor and respect to the indigenous people of Finland by including more Sámi culture in the educational objectives of schools.  This is a difficult time for moving forward for the Finns and the Sámi, however, and the process of deciding how to do this, and how much to do this, is a defining time for Finland and how they want to move forward as a nation.   Change isn't easy, and we were told that even though between Finns and Sámi's there are good relations, the politics of the situation are much more difficult.

Kiitos, Annikki Lauerma, Markko Siitonen, and Helmi Länsman for being such lovely hosts, to Helmi for her interview, to Annikki for her translating skills, and to Markko for sharing his science teaching expertise.  I appreciate you.

Artwork in the "Sámi" school.

Reindeer products in the local hardware store.

Melting ice along one of the many frozen lakes in Lapland.

A Dennis quote:  "Um, these aren't human tracks."

These tracks are deeper than they look in the picture - each hoof was actually longer than my hand and past my wrist.  Eek!  That's one big moose!

After the school visits we drove up and over this bridge into Norway.  The Teno River was filled with ice chunks flowing toward the Barents Sea.   This view is looking toward the northeast.

Looking toward the southwest, and the source of the ice and water.

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