Princess Elisabeth Antarctica viewed from the sky

in Press Releases

Belgian High School Teacher Koen Meirlaen Returning From Two-month Stay In Antarctica

As the winner of the PolarQuest contest the International Polar Foundation (IPF) organized during the 2010-2011 school year, Belgian teacher Koen Meirlaen is set to arrive back in Belgium on Friday 24th of February.

Update: The plane just Left Novo station. After a short stop in Cape Town, Koen should be back in Zaventem Friday the 24th of February. His flight is the British Airways flight (BA400) scheduled to arrive in Zaventem at 22h10.

A geography teacher at Leiepoort Deinze campus Sint-Hendrik, Koen spent two months at Belgium's "zero emission" Princess Elisabeth Antarctica (PEA) research station getting to know more about the scientific research being conducted there and the systems that make PEA the first research station in Antarctica designed an built to run entirely on renewable energy.

Gathering information to use in the AHA! awareness-raising project that he and his students put together, Koen has been able to show to students in Belgium that they, too, can be agents of change.

Science in Antarctica

First and foremost, PEA is a scientific research platform. Koen accompanied scientists during their field work in order to learn more about the various kinds of research going in Antarctica and why this research is important. As a teacher, he was able to communicate complex scientific matters in a language that students could understand and relate to.

Living in a "zero emission" prototype

By talking with engineers in the station's technical team, Koen was able to learn how the station's various systems integrate to enable PEA to be the first "zero emission" research station in Antarctica.

During his two-month stay, Koen became a member of the IPF Antarctic Operations team, taking part in logistical operations and everyday work at the station. Like any member of the crew, he was able to experience firsthand what it feels like to adapt your behaviour to an environment where energy supply is limited.

Educational material

Through small movies, photos and interviews published on his blog, Koen communicated his findings during the season. He also organized several Skype conferences to offer students the unique opportunity to compare the results of small experiments they carried out at school with the data he had collected in Antarctica. In addition, other PEA team members participated in these conferences and answered questions from students. Talking "live" with someone in Antarctica had a strong impact on students and teachers alike!

In the coming months, the IPF and Koen will collaborate in creating pedagogical dossiers, videos and pictures. These resources will be made available on EducaPoles, the educational website of the IPF. By offering free educational material in three languages (French, Dutch and English), we hope this local project will have a global reach.

The following press release is available in three languages (English, Dutch and French)

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