Penguins Marching Into Your Classroom #1 [Dispatches from Antarctica]

Emperor penguins in Antarctica (Photo: NSF)

Emperor penguins in Antarctica (Photo: National Science Foundation)

This is the 32nd entry in the Armed with Science series, Dispatches from Antarctica. The series features Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan’s first-hand experiences on OPERATION: DEEP FREEZE, the Defense Department’s support of National Science Foundation research in Antarctica.

8 November 2010, Cape Royds, Antarctica: “Penguins Marching Into Your Classroom, Part 1”.

We’re nearing the end of this outreach project. Yet some of the best stories still remain.

I’ve been very lucky. I’m surrounded by exceptional people with amazing stories. Consequently, you, the readers of these Dispatches, get to share in that luck — inasmuch as I can convey it. Aside from the honor of working alongside dedicated military men and women who support USAP science in Antarctica, I’ve also had the good fortune to meet some of the world’s leading scientists, educators, and logisticians.

This dispatch is the first of three dedicated to one of the exceptional educators I met, and her primary subject…PENGUINS.

Jean Pennycook is taking practical education to the next level. As an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow for the National Science Foundation (NSF), she’s using her 25 years of experience as a school teacher to spread the message of science and learning to classrooms around the world.

Her website,, provides incredible resources for teachers to share Antarctic science with their students. Working alongside NSF penguin scientist, Dr. David Ainley, Jean is able to provide lesson plans, interactive call-ins, and a wealth of non-traditional learning forums for teachers to share with their students.

Whether she is broadcasting daily updates to the “Nest Check”, monitoring progress of penguin eggs and young at the colonies, posting penguin PowerPoints, or endorsing postcards sent thousands of miles from classrooms in the U.S., Jean uses technology (and lots of moxie) to link penguins to schools. Her website gets over a million hits per month during the height of the breeding season, when chicks are in the nests.

In this first of three dispatches focusing on her work, Jean was gracious to share her time lapse photos, videos, and still images of penguins with us.

The first video presents a series of time lapse photos taken at an Adelie Penguin colony on the Ross Sea. The photos are taken every 45 minutes over a nearly 3-month period. You can see the ice “breathe” as tides push it up and down. Over the course of the three months, the ice shifts, gives, and finally melts away.

The second video on this dispatch shows Adelie Penguins moving across the ice near one of the NSF contracted science helicopters. Notice the different ways they move as they walk upright or toboggan on their bellies.

Finally, enjoy these U.S. Antarctic Program pictures courtesy of USAP photos courtesy Jean Pennycook and

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