EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Hand-written letters and polaroid photo albums linking geoscientists with school classes.

Mathew Stiller-Reeve1,2, Giuliana Panieri3, Claudio Argentino3, Kate Waghorn3, Sunil Vadakkepuliyambatta4, and Dimitri Kalenitchenko5
Mathew Stiller-Reeve et al.
  • 1Konsulent Stiller-Reeve, Valestrandsfossen, Norway
  • 2University of Bergen, Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET), Faculty of Social Sciences, Bergen, Norway
  • 3Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, Department of Geosciences, UiT—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  • 4National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Vasco da Gama, Goa, India.
  • 5Université de La Rochelle, La Rochelle, France


Do we miss something about «traditional” media such as handwritten letters and photography before the digital age? Some of the authors remember this age fondly, and we wanted to see if this fondness could be translated into a science dialogue project with school classes.

We designed and carried out a communication process with 4 classes at different schools across Europe. During this process, each class would interact with a single scientist primarily via hand-written questions & letters, and a Polaroid photo album. The scientists would make this unique, one-of-a-kind album whilst on board a research expedition in the Barents Sea. We asked the question whether this process might show any benefits to the school students involved.

To answer this, we asked the students to write up their thoughts on communicating with a scientist in this way. We analysed the texts and found that most students thought the letters and polaroid albums were a “beautiful experience”. Others commented on how important it is to actually put pen to paper and write, since they use (almost) only digital media these days. Most importantly, the students learnt different elements of the science connected to the research expedition, but also about the scientific process in general. And, equally important, some of the students were surprised and thankful that the scientists took the time to communicate with them in such a personal way.

These results could possibly have been achieved using other media, however the hand-written letters and Polaroids seemed to work very well. They also seemed to conjure up some of the personal memories that we have about communication not so long ago. Maybe there is something to be said for slowing things down with our science communication projects and making them more personal and unique. This is something that snail-mail and making photo albums forces us to do.

How to cite: Stiller-Reeve, M., Panieri, G., Argentino, C., Waghorn, K., Vadakkepuliyambatta, S., and Kalenitchenko, D.: Hand-written letters and polaroid photo albums linking geoscientists with school classes., EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-6412,, 2022.