Nearly $2 million granted to Geophysical Institute for tsunami education

Alaska is no stranger to the devastating effects of tsunamis. The state has experienced 37 since the 1800s, three of which are known around the world for the amount of destruction they caused: the 1964 Alaska Tsunami, the 1958 Lituya Bay Tsunami and the 1946 Aleutian Tsunami. Alaska is prone to tsunamis because of two factors: our enormous amount of coastline and our tendency for large earthquakes. The Alaska Tsunami Education Program (ATEP), a new project developed by staff at the Geophysical Institute, aims to use Alaska's risk of tsunamis as a springboard for polishing students' math and science skills. Developers received $1,815,453 from the United States Department of Education to push ATEP to fruition and work has begun on the K-12 curriculum.

Schools in 16 villages within Aleutians East, Kodiak Island, and Lake and Peninsula Boroughs are targeted for ATEP. The program calls for collaboration among school districts, Alaska Native organizations, government agencies and research institutes. ATEP developers also work closely with the Alaska Earthquake Information Center, within the Geophysical Institute, and the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

Through ATEP, students become familiar with the signs of an impending tsunami and learn how to react to them. Students learn, for example, that if the tide goes out suddenly, or an earthquake rumbles in a coastal community, there is a chance a tsunami may strike the area. If children know and share these basic principles with their family and friends, it could curb the destruction from future tsunamis in the state. Students also work on service-oriented projects that involve mapping rural communities, and pinpointing areas of local cultural significance. The projects help students develop workforce applicable skills, according to Kathy Bertram, principal investigator for ATEP.

"The Alaska Tsunami Education Program blends science instruction with Alaska Native cultural traditions," Bertram said. "ATEP builds a bridge between students and their communities to increase local interest in public schooling. Working with local officials and scientists also provides career focus."

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The Alaska Tsunami Education Program is modeled after a handful curricula developed by Berry Bertram and her team at the Geophysical Institute, including the successful Aurora Alive, Volcanoes Alive, and the Arctic Climate Modeling programs. All of these projects couple Native knowledge with scientific concepts to bolster student success.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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