Polar Night & Day
The 1st of December is internationally known as the Antarctica Day. It celebrates the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in Washington in 1959, which aims to protect the Antarctic continent (which represents nearly 10% of the Earth’s surface). Antarctica shall “forever [to] be used exclusively for peaceful purposes … in the interests of all mankind”. Antarctica Day has a long tradition within APECS (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) mainly through outreach activities like teaching children and teenagers about Antarctica. Given the importance and the tradition, the BeNeLux APECS National Committees together with the Dutch artist Udo Prinsen decided to join forces and organise an internationally coordinated outreach project for the Antarctica day 2018 in primary schools of the three countries.
In December 2018 we therefore went to 6 different classes in 4 different schools in Frisange, Gonderange, Remich and Schengen. In December 2019 we had the honor to return to 4 classes in the primary school in Frisange and the Lycée d'Echternach. During that first workshop, the pupils explored the reason behind Arctic day and night. While explaining the theory of the earth’s rotation around the sun with some globi, the children solved some exercises and had fun exploring live web-cameras from Tromsö, Norway (Arctic) and from the research station Amundsen Scott in Antarctica. More than once could we hear an enthusiastic “Wow” - discovering the theory behind a concept is still different, and more fun, when you can see it with your own eyes. In order to visualize the concept of night and day, we built camerae obscurae with soda cans and light sensitive paper. Initially, the pupils did not understand exactly where the “camera” was located - all of them being only familiar with digital cameras. It was about time we revealed the “secret” behind our “special” cameras.
In June and July of the following year, we went back to the same classes. Our cameras had hung outside for 6 months now: from the first part of our workshop around the winter solstice (21st december) until the summer solstice (21st june) and the second part of our workshop. It was time to look at the results! In order for the pupils to understand what we would be seeing on the developed pictures, we went through the reason behind Arctic day and night once again. In order to better understand the suntracks on the pictures, we looked at a short video depicting one lower sun track and a higher one. The first one showing how the sun is lower in winter, and the second how it is higher up in summer.
After understanding the polar night, we finally looked at the results from our camerae obscurae! At first the pupils looked a bit puzzled at the photos. Even after describing what they were seeing, they were not quite sure what they were seeing. After asking “Do you remember the two suns from the video?” an “Aaaaah … Yes!!!” came from some students. They had understood that the pictures depicted the sun tracks, that their very own cameraes had photographed. In some pictures houses and trees could even be seen and the pupils eagerly shared stories about where they hung up their cameras.
After having talked about celestial bodies for such a long time, we dedicated the second lesson to earthly matters again. We talked about the Inuit - about some of their traditions, as well as their modern life. Using GoogleMaps, we looked at Iqaluit, one of the biggest Inuit cities. We then read an Inuit legend, where the crow brings the sunlight to the Inuit, who had previously only lived in darkness. The pupils were encouraged to draw their favorite scenes, so we collected a whole set of creative and colorful pictures.
This project was supported by SCRIPT. We also want to thank the municipalities of Frisange, Schengen, Gonderange, Remich and Echternach for letting us realise our workshops in their schools. Not to forget Paradox 8 Studios from Mertert who developped the pictures for us.