Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Back to school

Greenland kindergarteners. Photo: Ed Stockard

Greenland has a national costume—traditional Inuit animal skin garb transformed with Danish textiles and beads—and the people wear it proudly on special days. These special days include national celebrations, religious holidays—and the first day of kindergarten.

Yes, Greenland’s kindergarteners dress in the national costume on the first day of school, a propitious-seeming tradition. Those of us who have led our own reluctant kids into their first classrooms—those of us who remember it as more of a Christians-into-the-lion’s-den occasion than a national parade–can’t help feeling a sartorial flourish might go some distance toward softening the transition to formal education. 

Basse Vængtoft, manager of the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS) facility, participated in the Greenlandic tradition a week or so ago when one of his boys entered kindergarten. Kathy Young (who helms the CPS science support operation in Kangerlussuaq) reported that both Basse and his wife, Pani, donned their traditional clothing that day. We were hoping for a picture of the KISS manager’s family, but with the research season in serious wind-down mode, Basse must be as busy as our CPS colleagues staffing the logistics hub for NSF researchers working in Greenland.

Ethan Pagenkopp's first day jitters were later helped by a visit from the nature and science museum. Photo: Angela Pagenkopp

Meanwhile, in northwest metro Denver, PFS 2.0 member Ethan Pagenkopp (Angela’s eldest son), started kindergarten at STEM Magnet Lab School, Colorado’s first such magnet. Instead of a national costume, faculty from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science visited the school, launching rockets and leading the student body in a variety of experiments. Each student was given a white lab coat and encouraged to participate in the special activities.

“STEM” stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The STEM initiative seeks to increase and improve education opportunities for K-12 and undergraduate students in these areas, to train the next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers.

Question: Can you think of a better national costume than a lab coat at this point in our history?

–Kip Rithner

One thought on “Back to school

  1. Karla

    Wow Handsome Ethan! Look at you all grown up and going to school. I just know you’ll do great there! Enjoy your school, it sounds like a fantastic place.

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