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New Program Seeks to Put the Excitement Back in Science

  As K-12 schools continue their focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, known as STEM,  a new program from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Climate Change Institute, and Maine 4-H Foundation hopes to fill in a piece they think might be missing: adventure.
"The paper pushing aspect is what I think gets represented," says Climate Change Institute researcher Charles Rodda, a STEM ambassador for 4-H, "It's what youth think science is."

Rodda says while kids can visit labs on school trips and watch science happen indoors, they're missing out on the weeks and months that are spent collecting data in the field. "The stages before all the number crunching and the statistics- in this case a 40 day expedition in the mountains of Peru."

For the first time, as part of a pilot program called Follow A Researcher, Rodda along with graduate student Kit Hamley, will try to take interested kids along virtually, as they collect glacial samples in the vicinity of some of the world's most famous ruins. 

"They'll certainly get some travel photographs and videos from our first de-climatization trek. They're certainly going to be able to see the things that we're doing around Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and Cusco." And they'll be able to see the team locating supplies and gearing up for the trek in town.  

"It just gives youth a sense of how this research actually looks," says Laura Wilson, 4-H science educator  with Cooperative Extension.  She says the idea sprang out of a casual conversation. "It was literally a 'what if ?' and so we're trying it! We've not done this before."

Rodda says it should take about a week to get a computer uplink from their base in Cusco. He'll keep in touch with the students following his trek through Twitter, with live Twitter chats scheduled every Wednesday, starting March 11.

Laura Wilson says so far, several schools in Maine, Iowa, Ohio, Rhode Island and Connecticut have signed up to take part. Individuals and home schooled children are also invited to participate. 

Rodda and Hamley plan to visit the participating Maine classrooms after they return in April.

Teachers interested in having their students follow the expedition can find out more online.