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Teacher, HWS Parent, Featured

Jeff Peneston, the father of William Smith student Kelly Peneston ’10 was recently featured in the “Post-Standard” as one of 14 teachers from the U.S. who participated in a two-month research trip to Antarctica. A ninth-grade science teacher at Liverpool High School, Peneston regularly participates in Science on Seneca field trips offered by the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

According to the article, “Peneston’s trip was organized through PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), a three-year program that aims to expose teachers and classrooms to cutting-edge scientific tools and methods and to explore and publicize the science of the Arctic and Antarctica.
Peneston traveled 26 hours over three days on his return trip.”

The article details his experiences in a “vessel the size of a football field… ,” with penguins and seals, but also as a teacher who is prepared to take his experiences and share them with students back home, including through a blog.

The complete article and link to his blog follows.

The Post-Standard
“Liverpool teacher returns from two-month research trip to Antarctica”
S.J. Velasquez • January 23, 2009

Liverpool, NY — Jeff Peneston rode on a vessel the size of a football field that sometimes tilted 30 degrees as it crashed through ice.
He helped capture seals with a big net.

And he got within arm’s length of penguins who considered him more of a curiosity than a threat.

“The experience was magical,” Peneston said. “It never got old.”

On Thursday, the ninth-grade earth science teacher at Liverpool High School returned home from a two-month excursion in Antarctica. He was one of 14 teachers from across the nation who worked with scientists there.

A welcome-back banner signed by students and colleagues greeted him as he entered the school’s annex.

Peneston, 49, of Pennellville, in Oswego County, said he plans to bring his experiences with earth science into the classroom.

“It’s the scientists’ job to take findings and publish it to the world,” he said. “It’s my job to take the process of science and bring it to the kids.”

While in Antarctica, Peneston communicated with students around the world. He also kept an online journal and did live Web broadcasts to reach students.
Peneston’s primary job was helping polar scientists research organisms in sea ice.
He also worked with scientists researching diseases in seals, which meant helping to capture seals for collecting hair, blood and mucous samples.

“I felt guilty putting a net over this gentle giant,” Peneston said of his first seal capture.

He said penguins and seals came up to the surface of the ice to rest. They tended to be relaxed and curious around humans because they did not feel threatened above water. Even after being captured, tested and released, seals would return to rest a few feet from the team of scientists and teachers.

Peneston said he quickly adjusted to life aboard the Swedish icebreaker, Oden, but found the food was quite different from what he was used to, influenced in part by the Swedish crew members.

He said the diet included preserved foods, such as pickled vegetables and canned fish. He added that fresh whole milk was always available.

The temperature in Antarctica was consistently between 20 and 30 degrees. It is currently summer there.

Peneston’s trip was organized through PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), a three-year program that aims to expose teachers and classrooms to cutting-edge scientific tools and methods and to explore and publicize the science of the Arctic and Antarctica.

Peneston traveled 26 hours over three days on his return trip.

For now, he is adjusting to life at home and work.

“I’m fully ready to jump right back into this,” he said. “It was never just me having an adventure. I was there representing other people.”

Learn more
You can read Jeff Peneston’s journal and see a video of him talking about why he took the trip at the  In Depth blog.