PUBLISHED: 5:17 PM on Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Millions of students connected through electronic field trip
Iridium® Satellite LLC, Ball State University and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian linked millions of schoolchildren in a simultaneous virtual field trip to Alaska on May 8. Students from throughout the U.S. will use the Iridium satellite network to phone in questions to National Museum of American Indian educators and student hosts as they broadcast live from a historic village on the shores of Alaska's Auke Bay in Juneau.

On May 2, four fourth and fifth grade students from Ben W. Murch Elementary School in Washington D.C. traveled more than 3,600 miles to Juneau. There, they joined children at Harborview and Glacier Elementary schools in Juneau for a week of activities that will teach them about the history and traditions of Native Alaskan communities. The week will culminate in a virtual field trip titled, "Listening to our Ancestors," an interactive 60-minute live satellite broadcast and Webcast that will air in classrooms across the country and run live on many PBS stations. Genevieve Simermeyer, school programs manager for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, will host the event with help from Ben W. Murch, Glacier and Harborview students. Children tuning into the show will view live demonstrations and participate through art projects and language exercises.

For this electronic field trip, a signature program of Ball State University, educators from Ball State University and The National Museum of the American Indian, as well as representatives from Sealaska Heritage Institute have partnered to facilitate the activities for the field trip. Student hosts will have the opportunity to go on a whale-watch, gather spruce roots, weave baskets, catch and smoke fish, go hiking to learn about glaciers, and learn how to practice the Tlingit tradition of storytelling in preparation for the broadcast.

"Through a constellation of 66 low-earth orbiting cross-linked satellites, Iridium provides reliable global voice and data communications to the most remote locations on the planet, including Alaska and the extreme polar regions," said Greg Ewert, executive vice president of Iridium Satellite LLC. "We are pleased to play an integral role in helping educators teach students about the ongoing traditions of Native American cultures today."

"The partnership between Ball State University, Iridium and the National Museum of the American Indian offers millions of children a unique opportunity to learn about the vital history and vibrant cultures of native people living along the Northwest Pacific Coast," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora. "This innovative use of interactive technology gives millions of students a unique learning opportunity without ever leaving the classroom. That's what I call redefining education."

Iridium also supported a similar electronic field trip entitled, "Eruption: An Island Rising From the Sea," which was televised live from Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on December 5, 2006.

Classrooms can access the broadcast, as well as archived shows, on Ball State's EFT Web site and on Apple's Learning Interchange Web site

Iridium Satellite LLC is the only provider of truly global satellite voice and data solutions with complete coverage of the earth (including oceans, airways and Polar Regions). Iridium delivers essential communications services to and from remote areas where no other form of communication is available. The Iridium constellation consists of 66 LEO, cross-linked satellites and has multiple in-orbit spares. The constellation operates as a fully meshed network and is the largest commercial satellite constellation in the world.

Ball State University, located in Muncie, Ind., is the third-largest public university in Indiana, with more than 18,000 students. Named the nation's best wireless campus in 2005, the university has 11 nationally ranked or recognized academic programs and initiatives.

Established in 1989, through an Act of Congress, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.