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Project Descriptions

Polar STEAM: Where Curiosity Thrives

September 1, 2022 - August 31, 2027

The polar regions inspire wonder, awe, and fascination. But they are also icons of fragility that have provided global audiences with unforgettable images of glacial melt, shrinking permafrost, and the resiliency of Indigenous communities in the face of changing Arctic climates. Scientific activity at the poles addresses these urgent global challenges, explores the mysteries of our earth's history, our solar system and the universe, and investigates the wonder of life in extreme environments. Oregon State University (OSU) will facilitate a Polar STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) program that aims to increase the impact and visibility of polar science by integrating arts- and education-based elements into the polar science research setting. The program's overarching goal is to increase the impact of the research and the engagement of the public, general audiences, and students with polar environments and peoples and to increase access to polar science for faculty and students from minority serving institutions and two-year colleges.

Two programs define Polar STEAM:

i. The Polar Educators program facilitates deployments to both the Arctic and the Antarctic and virtual experiences connected to the polar expeditions for both formal and informal educators. The program aims to inspire transdisciplinary teaching and transdisciplinary science about the polar regions, integrating art-based and science-based methods to promote critical thinking, engagement, and conceptual access for a broad swath of learners. The program works with educators from K-12 institutions, two-year colleges, and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) as well as informal science institutions to engage students from groups underrepresented in STEM with the goal of increasing participation by underrepresented groups and/or diverse audiences in polar science.

ii. The Antarctic Artists and Writers program facilitates deployments to the Antarctic for creative practitioners within the arts and humanities to interact with polar researchers. The program aims to increase the public's understanding and appreciation of the Antarctic and human endeavors on the southernmost continent through the resulting works. The program also seeks to inspire the critical exchanges that artists and creative thinkers bring to science research settings, even those as remote as Antarctica.

OSU's facilitation of the two programs centers on integrating the sciences, arts, and education by creating pre- and post-deployment communities of program participants both within the two individual programs and across the AAW and Polar Educators groups. Emphasizing inclusivity at each step, from the recruitment of applicants through post-deployment interactions, the program creates the conditions for curiosity to thrive not just because the environments are themselves wondrous, but through the rich community of artists, scientists, and educators that program infrastructure will create. Through mentoring components, in-person and virtual meetings of participants across the programs, arts exhibition opportunities, a robust and content-rich web portal, and long-term relationship building, OSU will manage the Polar STEAM programs with an eye to enabling participants to learn from one another's unique strengths, practices, and ways of knowing. In this approach, the power and unique vulnerability of polar environments will be activated, communicated, and studied holistically, and the results and resources will be made available to the widest possible audience. Evaluation of the Polar STEAM program will be led by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College.


Funding Program: Polar Special Initiatives; Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE); Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL); ECR-EDU Core Research; Alliances for Minority Participation
Award Number: 2221990
Funding Amount: $4,000,000.00


  • Julie Risien
    Principal Investigator
    Oregon State University
  • Kim Bernard
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Oregon State University
  • Susan Roberta Rowe
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Oregon State University
  • Peter Betjemann
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Oregon State University
  • Resource Type: Projects
    Discipline: Art, music, and theater | Climate | Ecology, forestry, and agriculture
    Audience: Educators/Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Scientists | Undergraduate/Graduate Students | Youth/Teen (up to 17)
    Environment Type: Public Programs
    Access and Inclusion: Indigenous and Tribal Communities

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