PCES teacher to study climate change on Arctic expedition
GUILFORD — Over the years Alden Gregory’s grade 5-6 science students at Piscataquis Community Elementary School have assembled models of various ecosystems, including the Arctic. Next month Gregory will be able to experience this environment in person as he has been chosen to join an international group in the “Leadership on the Edge” ClimateForce: Arctic 2019 program to study the impact of climate change on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago north of the Arctic Circle, and the Arctic Ocean.
“I’ve been sponsored by (Novatus Energy) to go on a ClimateForce expedition to the Arctic,” Gregory said on May 9 after an assembly in the cafeteria to announce his trip to the PCES middle school students. “The goal of the expedition is to learn about climate change and to learn about leadership and to learn about how to tell a good story. We are going to go and see how things are changing due to climate change. Then my goal is to come back and inspire the kids in my school to make a change in the world to work towards a more sustainable future.”
Gregory will be overseas for 12 days from June 15-26. “We fly in to Oslo, Norway,” he said, mentioning that he has been overseas with his wife Jessica’s (who teaches English at Piscataquis Community High School) on their honeymoon in Italy. “It is the green capital of Europe for 2019 for their sustainability efforts. We are going to stay there three days doing seminars and learning. Then we get on an airplane and we fly to Svalbard, which is about halfway between Norway proper and the North Pole.”
He said the expedition get to within 700 miles of the North Pole, and Gregory jokingly told the students he would put in a good word with Santa Claus as he had a projected map of the world to show precisely where he would be headed. Gregory said he would be hiking, looking at wildlife, seeing glaciers and icebergs and plans to do a polar bear dip in the frigid ocean.
“I promise when I come back I will have videos and pictures and I will get up here and present again and show you what I saw, and anybody who comes into my science class they will get to see firsthand how my trip went,” he told the students.
Svalbard “hasn’t been touched too much by man and so you can explore and see the effects of climate change there,” Gregory said. “You get on a ship for seven days and just sail north, you see what’s been happening in the world there. I think it’s powerful because people don’t always notice the effects of climate change where they are although it’s happening everywhere. It’s really noticeable in the Arctic and you get to see it and I should have a lot of images and video and experiences with new and interesting people that I can share to teach the kids around here that it’s partly their job to make a difference in the future.”
The PCES science teacher said he applied for the ClimateForce: Arctic 2019 program early in the year . “I wanted to do it, and at first I was scared,” he said. “I have two small children and my wife, I haven’t been away from her in a long time and I want to go because I want to make a difference, I want to make a change. Climate change is happening and we all need to work together to find solutions to it.”
“It’s going to make a big difference to me personally and professionally because as a person I think that cultural experience is going to help me a lot to become a better person and as a teacher what better way than having real world experience to teach the kids,” Gregory said. “When I come back I will have been a part of something, it’s not like I just took a class, I was part of a group that made a difference so I think professionally it’s going to help me to make a difference in this community in a place I think where kids don’t always have the aspirations and think that they can do something like this and when they see that their teacher can do it then maybe they can do it too someday.”
During the presentation Novatus Energy Director of Asset Management Stacey Fitts explained he works for a renewable energy company with wind turbines and solar farms around the country including a site not too far from PCES at the Bingham wind farm.
“Our mission is to produce clean, renewable energy but in order to do that we all have a mission and that is to find ways to keep our planet healthy,” Fitts said. “Climate change being something that’s here that we see, we came across an opportunity that we thought would be very important to share and that opportunity is to provide a teacher with a chance to go and see the effects of climate change firsthand.”
Fitts said Gregory’s trip next month would include traveling on a National Geographic ship north of the Arctic Circle. “Each day they have expeditions to go ashore and actually see what’s going on in that part of the world and see the effects that are happening there that are also happening here,” Fitts said.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I think it’s good he will be able to share with you how excited he is and we’re excited for him,” Fitts said.
“This wouldn’t be possible without Novatus and the good work they do,” Gregory said post-assembly. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be allowed to go and it wouldn’t be possible without SAD 4 which has given me a job here for the last seven years and given me the opportunity to have the experience and skill to go on a trip like this.”
“Novatus is providing the children of SAD 4 an amazing opportunity to be second-hand witnesses to the physical changes in our world,” PCES Principal Anita Wright, who recommended Gregory for the expedition, said in a statement. “By inspiring one teacher, they are inspiring dozens of children for years to come.”