When Libertyville High School teacher Mark Buesing decided to take a former student's advice an apply to participate in NASA's Operation IceBridge, he never thought much would come of it.
"And here we are," said Buesing, who will travel to Greenland in April to work on the project.
Operation IceBridge researchers fly over the ice in Greenland and collect detailed, 3D images of the ice.
"By doing that over months and years, they can develop a model and look at past data to monitor how things are changing," said Buesing, adding that the data can be seen by the general public on the National Snow and Ice Data Center website.
Buesing said a former student who graduated from LHS about a decade ago now works for the United States Antarctic Program. The student was in Antarctica, ran into a couple of teachers who were participating in Operation IceBridge and decided to send Buesing a note about it.
Buesing submitted an application and participated in two interviews—one with PolarTREC, which pairs K-12 teachers with polar researchers, and another with the researchers themselves.
Through the PolarTREC program, teachers undergo pre-trip training through webinars.
"The goal is for the teachers to become part of the research program," said Buesing. "We're not just tagging along and watching. They actually want the teachers to do some of the research."
While Buesing doesn't yet know what his exact duties will be, he knows that he'll spend eight to 10 hours each day flying over the ice in Greenland with the Operation IceBridge researchers.
Buesing said NASA funds the trip and even covers the cost of a classroom substitute while Buesing is away for the research project.
Bringing Greenland to the Classroom
While he's in Greenland, Buesing plans to take advantage of PolarTREC's software capabilities to do live chats with his students.
"They can see what's going on in real-time," said Buesing.
He hopes to bring some valuable physics lessons back to his students.
"I'm looking forward to being able to bring some of my experience back to those kids. The kids that take physics in high school are the future researchers and scientists," said Buesing. "In the future, it'll be those kinds of kids flying the missions for NASA in Greenland."
He's also hoping to encourage more students to pursue science, technology and math post-high school.
Buesing plans to have a website set up where students can monitor his progress in Greenland.