Lourdes Regional teacher Kelly McCarthy will be helping NASA
SHAMOKIN – For one of the Valley’s teachers, a lifelong love of science and NASA will pull her out of the classroom, and into the Arctic Circle. Teaching advanced Honors Physics at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School in Shamokin is the easy part of teacher Kelly McCarthy’s curriculum this winter and spring. For the hard part of her work, she’ll be going to the North Pole, a journey about which she is excited, “Very, very, I think it’s a once in a lifetime experience, I’m excited to be a part of it, and I’m excited to bring the experience back.”
“Why is the ice changing? Is it because of greenhouse gases and human-caused global warming, or is it a natural period of de-glaciation that we should have expected to happen. Those questions I don’t think are answered yet and that’s the reason I think this research is important.”
The Penn State and University of Pennsylvania educated teacher will be participating in the PolarTREC and NASA program that sends teachers on research missions around the globe. She’ll be with a crew, flying low over the ice at the pole, mapping changes and making the data available to researchers everywhere, “I’m involved in a program called PolarTREC, and Polar TREC is an organization that pairs K through 12 teachers with researchers who are studying something at either one of the poles, and most of the research that we are connected with has to do with climate change study.”
She’ll be with a team of 15 teachers on Operation IceBridge, it’s the most expansive airborne survey every undertaken. Each year, researchers fly over the poles to study how the ice sheets are changing.
McCarthy says, “The day starts about 5a.m, everyone gets loaded onto the plane, and I think it takes about two hours to get going, and in-flight. Then once you’re in-flight, it’s about eight or nine hours, depending upon the pre-planned route, they’re either going to flying over land ice, which will be the middle of the glacier, or they’ll be over the Arctic Ocean if they have a sea ice flight plan”
She’ll stay in touch with students electronically, and via the social media Periscope and she’ll be in frequent touch with the class, as they participate in the research via their classroom in Shamokin. Teacher Kelly McCarthy notes, she’s lucky to go now, because soon a satellite will make many of the measurements the airborne researchers do now.