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Retired District 47 teacher headed to Antarctica for science expedition

Betty Trummel is one of 78 women around the world chosen

CRYSTAL LAKEBetty Trummel may be retired, but in a few months she will be off to Antarctica to participate in an elite science leadership expedition.

Trummel is a former Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 teacher who got her start as an educator teaching in a school outside the 790-person village of Tampico in Whiteside County.

She has since made connections around the world as she completed various science expeditions and has recently been selected as one of 78 women worldwide to complete the Homeward Bound expedition, an Australian-based project founded by Fabian Dattner and Jess Melbourne Thomas.

“It’s exciting,” Trummel said. “It means I will be around people with similar goals and interests, which is important. I feel like there is so much to learn from everybody. … Even as a 60-year-old retired school teacher, I’m not done.”

The project aims to enhance the impact of women in science and elevate participants’ leadership skills. Women in all different science fields will participate, including doctors, engineers, astronomers, zoologists and educators. The trip involves 20 days at sea, setting off Dec. 2 from Ushuaia in Argentina.

“I will be working on education outreach in schools, not just locally but nationally and internationally,” Trummel said. “I can see myself using what I have learned to keep having an impact on education.”

A documentary about the project – “Leading us Home” – is in production and will focus on program participants and other women in science such as Jane Goodall, a British anthropologist known for her work with chimpanzees.

It’s often difficult for scientists to explain what they do to kids, but it’s vital that someone sparks a child’s interest, which is where education outreach comes in, Trummel said.

“My role has always been a
science communicator,” she said. “I wanted my classroom to be a classroom of the world, and that is the way I always taught. I want to get kids to realize there are great careers in science. It’s about changing perception.”

Ross Powell, a professor at Northern Illinois University, worked with Trummel on a previous Antarctic expedition through the ANDRILL Research Immersion for Science Educators program, of which he was co-chief scientist.

Powell said the work Trummel has done is invaluable and necessary. It’s a challenge to explain scientific research in a way that is palatable and easily understandable, he said.

“Research scientists like myself haven’t gone through the training in terms of being able to communicate and understand what level to pitch things at in terms of people being able to grab hold,” he said. “We found it valuable to have people like Betty working with us to get across the main concepts of what we are trying to do and explain the significance of the results.”

Trummel is currently fundraising for her expedition at GoFundMe.com/nhtw2tgk.

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