Teacher Susan Tate holds a plush toy penguin which will go with her in the Polar Plunge this Friday, and is next to a Christmas tree, decorated with penguin ornaments, she raffled off to raise money for a trip to the Antarctic.
Michigan’s Middle School Science Teacher of the Year for 2011 is taking a Polar Plunge, literally!
This Friday (Dec. 21) Susan Tate will be plunging into the frigid waters of White Lake as a promise to students who helped raise $1,000 toward another polar experience.
That one is a two-week trip to the Antarctic, the location of the South Pole.
Tate, a 15-year veteran teacher in Whitehall schools who has taken several scientific trips in North and Central America to bring back knowledge to share with students through the curriculum, is taking her biggest adventure in late February when she takes part in this year’s 2041 Antarctic Expedition. She will be one of 70 selected people on the expedition Feb. 28-March 13 which includes seven teachers. She is the only teacher from the United States.
The Friday plunge will occur at 12:21 near Goodrich Park, and will be witnessed by eighth grade students from Whitehall Middle School where Tate teaches. She will be assisted by the White Lake Fire Authority.
Tate took a chance in pursuing this opportunity to visit the antarctic.
“My message to my kids (students) is it never hurts to ask,” said Tate who inquired about going on the expedition by email after reading about it on the website www.2041.com.
“I tell them you’ll miss 100 percent of the shots you never take,” she uses a basketball analogy with her students.
Last spring, after she learned about the 2041 effort led by polar explorer Robert Swan, she inquired about joining the 2012 expedition.
“I inquired by email for more information and heard nothing back,” Tate said. “Two weeks later I asked again and heard nothing.”
Finally, she was contacted by a 2041 representative who told her to send her resume and answer provided questions.
Tate then heard some good and bad news. The good news was she was selected to go on the expedition. The bad news is it cost $20,000.
The teacher said she began contacting local industry and foundations for funding, but was told they didn’t fund individuals.
Then, she was told by her mother that they have a distant relative who may have the resources to fund the trip.
That relative is wealthy William Draper, III of California man who was an early venture capitalist who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as president of the United Nations Development Programme, making him the number two person in the U.N. and who founded the Draper Richards Foundation in 2002. He is a Yale University graduate, one year after President George H.W. Bush.
“He was my grandmother’s first cousin,” Tate said.
She left Draper a message, asking if he knew of sources for funding, Draper called and left her a message asking for more information. Tate provided information to the Draper Richards Foundation which he founded, and learned it will fund the trip.
The additional $1,000 Tate raised is to reimburse Whitehall District Schools the cost of a substitute teacher for the time she will be gone, and for purchasing a cold weather jacket for the bone chilling antarctic temperatures.
Tate has taken several other trips. Last year she visited Costa Rica, sponsored by Toyota. She has also been on educational trips to Colorado, the volcanoes in Hawaii, the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit and this past summer, to the San Diego, California Zoo.
The Whitehall teacher said the antarctic expedition will be led by Swan who is the only person to walk to both the North and South Poles. He is committed to the preservation of the Antarctic. The name 2041 comes from the year the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty could be modified. Tate said Swan focuses on positive environmental activism.
This year’s expedition will begin in Ushuaia, Argentina where the arctic travelers will board the ship Sea Spirit which will through Drake Passage which connects the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern oceans to the Antarctic Peninsula where participants will explore the fragile ecosystem. Tate and her fellow participants will also be a part of the Inspire Antarctic Expedition (IAE) leadership program.
The antarctic is one of the most remote, inhospitable environments on earth. Covered by 5 million square miles of solid ice, it is the world’s highest, driest, coldest and windswept continent.