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Central Washington University

Outreach Project Involving CWU Researcher Earns National Acclaim

Thursday, April 2, 2020

CWU research associate Beth Pratt-Sitaula and a team of Alaska-based science professionals have been recognized by the Western States Seismic Policy Council (WSSPC) with the 2020 National Award in Excellence in the Outreach category.

Since 2018, Pratt-Sitaula has been one of the principal investigators for the Alaska Native Geoscience Learning Experience (ANGLE) program, which educates rural teachers and students about how to prepare for and recover from geohazards, such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

The CWU partnership with Alaska Pacific University and the University of Alaska-Anchorage has been such an overwhelming success that the WSSPC chose to present ANGLE with the award, which is given only once every four years. 

“There are a lot of states that are earthquake-active in the western United States, so to be selected for this award is very gratifying,” said Pratt-Sitaula, who works in the CWU Geological Sciences department. “CWU and its partners have been very good at putting together high-quality programming over the years, and because of that success, our colleagues in Alaska contacted us about creating a program specific to what they are doing.”

Pratt-Sitaula and her colleagues were recognized by the WSSPC in 2016 for a similar outreach project in the Pacific Northwest called the Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program. She also helped with the Teachers On The Leading Edge program from 2008-11. Those experiences helped Pratt-Sitaula and the two Alaska universities develop the ANGLE program.

“We were able to adapt what we have learned in Cascadia and make it relevant to Alaska,” she said. “There was a lot of learning throughout the process, and it feels really good to build something that has worked so well for the people of Alaska.” 

ANGLE started in September 2017 through a grant from the National Science Foundation’s EarthScope program, which has since been discontinued. The program presents professional development workshops for educators and teaches student academies for the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). ANGLE presented a stakeholder workshop in February 2018 and held its first educator workshop in May of that year. 

The primary goal of the ANSEP program is to engage and retain Native Alaskan youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). ANGLE works with ANSEP’s middle-school academies to increase the STEM learning related to earthquakes and tsunamis. The workshops also benefit students in population centers like Anchorage and Juneau, but those cities already have more of the resources to prepare for and recover from seismic events. 

ANGLE’s work with educators and students around the state has increased Alaska’s resilience to geohazards through education and the development of an action-oriented learning community. 

Pratt-Sitaula specifically credited the work of Jennifer Witter, the science curriculum coordinator for the Anchorage School District, who also serves as the ANGLE project director. Even after the EarthScope funding ends in 2021, Witter will continue many of the same initiatives that started because of ANGLE. 

“It will be harder to serve the rural areas now without the funding,” Pratt-Sitaula said. “But with Jen’s help, the program will go on through ANSEP and through the continued professional development of teachers in Anchorage, which serves about half of the state’s students.” 

To learn more about ANGLE, visit the website.

• Note: The WSSPC awards ceremony was scheduled to take place during the March 2-6 National Earthquake Conference. Witter was unable to accept the award in person because the Anchorage School District stopped all non-essential travel March 2 due to concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak.


Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu.

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