Towards an integrated education and outreach program for the International Polar Year

The need for a coordinated effort of Education and Outreach (E&O) within the context of the International Polar Year (IPY) of 2007-08 is a pressing issue that has risen to the forefront of the IPY agenda. In this context, the IPY Education & Outreach workshop in Boulder, Colorado on 20-22 July provided the perfect setting for three days of project presentations, brainstorming and strategic planning. From it emerged the necessary platforms and networks necessary to further develop and synchronize IPY E&O efforts.

Organised by Marck MacCaffrey of Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and Carol Knight of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the IPY E&O workshop was attended by over ninety scientists and E&O professionals from eight American, European and Australasian countries. These included numerous representatives from universities, museums, foundations, visual media companies and agencies such as the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


The workshop began with welcome address by Don Mock, Executive Director of NOAA, and Roger Barry, Director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

Later, David Carlson, the newly nominated director of the IPY International Program Office housed at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge gave a passionate keynote address about the need for the IPY to increase awareness and engage school children, university students and the general consuming, travelling, voting public on the subject of polar research and the central role which the Polar Regions and oceans play in driving the Earth System.

Dave explained that this could be achieved by broadening out and capturing the audience's attention through 'Myth and Mystery', 'Adventure and Romance', 'Measurement and the Complexity', and finally the Philosophical richness of the Polar Regions. Furthermore, Dave spoke about the need to directly engage and include Arctic peoples and about the opportunity which the IPY presented for the encouragement of young scientists working in the fields of earth and social sciences.


Following these introductions and further presentations by Renée Crain of the NSF, Lance King of the CU Foundation, AJ Grant of Environmental Communications Associates. Mark McCaffrey of CIRES, Jean de Pomereu of the International Polar Foundation, Stephanie Pfirman of Barnard College, Rusty Law of Ucar and Pieter Tans of NOAA, participants divided into smaller groups to brainstorm and discuss a whole range of themes relating to potential audiences, funding, scientific themes and challenges, communication tools and techniques.


From the brainstorming sessions, emerged a range of 'Modes and Methods' sub-groups which will work together in the months to come, cooperating on themes such as Data Management, Field Experience, Exhibitions, Visual Media, K12 Audiences, Expeditions and Encouraging Young Scientists. These sub-groups will report back and provide strategic project proposals to a co-ordinating umbrella-group in charge, in the first instance, of approaching agencies and foundation for IPY Education and Outreach funding.


Built on the genuine enthusiasm and energy of all those involved, the Boulder IPY E&O workshop was a resounding success, creating partnerships for future collaborations, and marking a big step forward in facilitating and coordinating the communication of the IPY

Finally, during the workshop, a IPY E&O 'SWIKI' website was launched to facilitate communication amongst the IPY E&O community, and a very enjoyable and useful networking dinner was hosted by the International Polar Foundation at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (See Photos