Meet Sarah Johnson '16

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Sara Johnson Hamline student in the snow

This Hamline alumna brings education to the Arctic

Starting this spring, environmental educator Sarah Johnson ’16 is connecting the Arctic to the rest of the world by telling the story of a research team stationed in Utqiaġvik (“oot kay-ahg vik”), Alaska.

Johnson, who earned her Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) from Hamline in natural science and environmental education, joined the International Arctic Buoy Program as an outreach officer on March 27 for a two-week stint in northern Alaska. Her team deploys weather station buoys on drifting icebergs to gather data on weather, ocean currents, and sea ice, she said.

“These are not the kind of buoys that are on lakes in Minnesota,” Johnson said. "We will be doing everything we can to get these buoys onto the largest icebergs we can find."

The Arctic project is a natural progression for the Hamline grad, whose master’s thesis focused on investigating how biological field research stations around the U.S. build relationships through exemplary teacher professional development. She was drawn to Hamline after seeing multiple friends complete the environmental education program while managing full-time jobs.
 

Hamline was accessible, and Hamline was affordable. Hamline’s master’s program did not put me under—I was able to afford it and pay it off really quickly."

Johnson’s research at Hamline brought her to several field stations, where she observed how educators and technical experts translated their work into material a K-12 teacher could use in the classroom. 

Now, Johnson is using her skills in even colder climates than Minnesota. Her team travels by snowmobile and helicopter up to 50 miles offshore to plant buoys on massive icebergs, where the buoys will send data to the World Meteorological Organization to create weather forecasts, to climate scientists for their research, and to commercial fisheries and the US Navy for navigational planning. She's sharing their work in a blog at Wild Rose Education, an organization Johnson founded to help technical experts be better facilitators, communicators, and educators.

“This whole project is about accurate, reliable observations that are critical to all these other institutions and industries and our understanding of the planet," Johnson said. "That’s what I’ve been doing for years—teaching people how to see and how to make observations and be scientific about it and communicate what they observe."