Inside the Story: Utah teacher treks all the way to Antarctica

Inside the Story: Utah teacher treks all the way to Antarctica (Photo provided by Josh Heward)

(KUTV) One science class at Timpanogos High School is taught by a particularly passionate teacher: Josh Heward.

"I love biology, I love learning about animals in particular," he said.

But for the very first time in his career, Heward is about to give his students something he got thousands of miles away on a continent made of ice, located at the bottom of the earth.

"I got to go to Antarctica for a month as part of a research expedition and that was amazing," Heward said.

He was chosen from a pool of hundreds of applicants to join the Polar Trec team to study for one month in Antarctica.

The team was made up of about a dozen researchers and teachers from across the country to study animal life. Not animals living above ground, but these tiny microscopic creatures that live in the ground.

"There are three basic types of animals that live in the soil there," he said. "There are nematodes which are microscopic worms. Then there are little animals called rotifers that have little things on the top of their head that spin around. And then the tardigrades which are water bears which are little eight-legged animals that have little claws and they climb around in the soil."

Up close, the animals look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

Every day, Heward would keep a journal documenting his research and activities.

He also did a variety of Skype interviews to schools across the country.

The days and days of research that may seem tedious, but the study of these little creatures can actually teach scientists incredible things about the world we live in.

"In Antarctica you are only dealing with a small number of species and that allows or makes it easier to track all the interaction between the animals and find out how they are responding to changes in the environment," explained Heward. "We can use that information to extrapolate and build models for more complex systems."

The goal now is to bring all that he's learned from out in the field to into the classroom where he can bring the research to life for his students.

"I want to mimic some of the procedures that we did both in collecting the animals in the soil and also looking at them under the microscope," Heward said.

So now every time a student walks into science room 222, they will be learning from a scientist who literally walked on the edge of the world.

"It was the trip of a lifetime it was just amazing to be there," said Heward.

For more about Heward's trip, you can visit this website.