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Chisholm science teacher to visit Southern Ocean aboard research vessel

This fall, Chisholm Middle School science teacher Kiley Preheim will embark on a trip to the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, in the name of science.

Preheim is one of the few teachers represented on this opportunity of a lifetime, made possible through the National Science Foundation. The Polar STEAM cohort pairs researchers with teachers and artists from around the country. She will be studying diatoms as a proxy for determining levels for ancient ocean chemistry. 

As Preheim describes it, it’s important work as it helps us to recommend policy and ideas regarding climate change, rising sea levels, and weather patterns - things that impact us all.

“It helps us to understand the changing ocean chemistry and biology today. These tiny diatoms are responsible for 20 to 50 percent of carbon capture and oxygen capture on earth,” she said.

In September 2023, Preheim noticed a call for applications in the National Science Teaching Association newsletter. By October, she had made the next round of applications and completed an interview. In January 2024, she found out she would be one of the chosen few to actually go.

She describes finding out her acceptance as “shocking” and “a real honor” but hopes that it inspires her students, many of which have never seen the ocean, that people from here can go on to do amazing things in the field of science.

While there, Preheim will be working with a researcher from the University of Rhode Island. She will be able to video chat her students to show them some of the research she is doing.

The program pays for a substitute teacher for her six-week absence.

Also while in the Southern Ocean, Preheim will conduct discussions with the local group, “STEAM for Seniors” to bring the research back to local “students” much older than her 7th graders. 

Preheim will depart from the southern coast of Chile in November and will be located aboard a research vessel. The sun will never set while she’s there, so she plans to bring an eyemask.

Once she’s back from the Southern Ocean, she plans to develop a phenomenon-based science unit surrounding polar phenomenon, encouraging kids to ask questions as it deals directly with a real-world problem.

Currently in her science class,she is teaching how the palm oil industry in Indonesia is causing the local orangutans to go extinct, hitting points about biodiversity. 

For her er future polar phenomenon unit - she hopes the takeaway for students is the question: How did we use STEAM to solve this problem?

Above all, the opportunity excites her as a science teacher to show students someone familiar to them doing actual science work that is important to the planet.

“Science isn’t just for people who are career scientists. Science is for everybody,” Preheim added.