Lynnwood teacher bringing young students along virtually on Arctic expedition to study polar bears

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — A Lynnwood elementary school teacher is about to embark on a mission to study polar bears in the Arctic, and her students are playing a key role back at home.

They will use the research to educate other kids in Western Washington, including a feature on the Woodland Park Zoo website.

KIRO 7 went to Spruce Elementary School on Friday to see Jennie Warmouth during her last day of class before the 11-day expedition to the Arctic Svalbard.  She leaves on Sunday as one of 45 Grosvner Teacher Fellows with National Geographic and Lindblad expeditions.

Her students are providing questions to guide her research on the polar bears, and she's also taking questions from other teachers and students on her website GlobalWarmouth.com.

“I will collect all of the media, so I'm telling them I'll be their eyes and ears in the field,” Warmouth told KIRO 7.  “Bring all of that back and we're actually building virtual reality field trip experiences. So, I have a 360 camera and when I come back, they'll sort of be able to move around within my images.”

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If the satellite internet cooperates on the National Geographic Explorer ship, Ms. Warmouth will be talking to the students from the Arctic to the classroom in Lynnwood.  And she'll be uploading video and content to her website that the students will review daily in class in Lynnwood.

Students at Spruce Elementary voted in a poll whether Ms. Warmouth will have to do a Polar Bear Plunge and jump into the Arctic in her swimsuit.  The yes votes won in a landslide.  When KIRO 7 Anchor John Knicely asked Warmouth if she knew the temperature, she said she’s been delaying looking it up.  So we did for her.  It’s 36 degrees!

The trip is not just about polar bears.  The research will tie into work with PAWS in Lynnwood.

“Right now, we have four bear cubs that have been orphaned and will be released,” Warmouth said.  “And so, my students and I are studying the adaptation of polar bears from black and brown bear.”

Once she's back, Ms. Warmouth and her students will analyze the research and summarize the findings to present to other children online.  It will eventually be featured on the Woodland Park Zoo website.

The curious 2nd-graders will have quite the project on their resume when it's all done.

“We know that people conserve what they care about, and they care about what they understand. Polar bears are pretty far away from Seattle,” Warmouth said.  “So, I'm hoping that this experience serves as a bridge."