It’s been over a month now since I’ve gotten back from the Arctic. I could have written this then but I wanted to be sure. I wanted to be sure that it was real. That I wasn’t on some post expedition high that I would dwindle down from and say “oh, it was ok”. But that has not been the case as I still can’t find the words to describe the trip. Even this blog is a futile effort. And yet it’s ONLY been a month. I can already see the ways the connections, the knowledge gained, the people have affected my life. So as I think that it's been a long time, I am sure that it is only just the beginning.
I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about myself. Or to see pieces of me in other staff members on board the ship. The most unexpected token of knowledge was getting to know so many awesome women. They were in all walks of life, various stages of careers, some just floating back and forth between their bi-polar jobs, some juggling relationships, some single moms, some powerhouse scientists. But yet there we all were taking the time out of our busy lives to be here now working with these students. It was really empowering for me to see so many strong women. It gave me the courage to know there were other lifestyles out there, that I didn’t need to be held back by the notion that I needed a steady job, permanent address or retirement plan. There were other ways to be responsible adults and still be able to adventure. But most importantly, that teachers can be zodiac drivers, students and museum staff. You never know where your next lesson will come from.
What I expected to learn about was the Arctic, Climate Change, Inuit Culture, Truth and Reconciliation, and engage with students and their projects. All of that came true and then some. But it was the way that we were given the information that really rung true for me. You see I was struggling as a classroom teacher who saw engaged students asking questions and they can’t contain themselves. They didn’t care if the bell rang or if the material was on the test, they just wanted to learn. Those little moments led me to think there must be something more when that same student would do poorly on a test, or disengage in large classroom discussions. Was it the material, the presentation style, the assessment, the teacher, the proximity to grades closing that made the difference for that student? I’ve been searching in the dark how to describe what I was seeing in the classroom, fumbling with words, yet none of it doing the trick. Till a lecture. A powerpoint lecture. The exact opposite place of where you expect to learn about learning.
In this lecture given by James Raffin “JR” we were learning about the SOI curve. The learning process that occurs during the expedition and after. The steps for learning, teaching and gaining information. In it, JR made a statement that I have quoted as he so eloquently summed up how I feel about education. It makes sense after all that he is good with words, he is an author. “If you really want a student to learn, the information has to enter their hands and their feet, go through their heart before it enters their brain”. Feel free to reread that line as its a true gem. That is why I wanted to take my students outside the classroom with hands on experiences. Students On Ice has mastered that. Oh you want to learn about glaciology well, lets build glaciers with putty and well we're at it, look outside. See how the massive rocks are deposited by past glaciers, watch icebergs calve from the terminus, study morain walls that mark the ghosts of glaciers past. There were glaciologists on board to answer questions, not just during the moment but later, a week later, over dinner, when you’ve had time to settle your thoughts and come up with your next question. This example was done over and over countless times with whatever topic you fancies. The lines between teacher, student and collaborator were often blurred as someone would say the latin name of a plant species, and then someone would say that it was used to cure rashes, while yet another person would chime in with an idea of a video project to blend the IQ knowledge with science knowledge. It really was an authentic learning environment that promoted a true love of learning.
Now I wish that SOI was every week of the year, however that is not possible. But I do now know that there are so many other forms of education, lifestyle, and experiential learning that exist in the world, that there must be other options and possibilities. As I said from the start, I can already tell that this is just the beginning. The Alumni program is strong, the relationships I’ve forged with students and staff are only at the tip of the iceberg.
If anyone is interested in learning more about this program, I would highly recommend checking out the website: https://studentsonice.com/expedition/arctic-2019/ Many students on board were on their 2nd or 3rd round of application, and remember 80% receive a scholarship so don’t be scared off by the price tag. You can always save and fundraise too. SOI is great about providing mentorship on fundraising and sponsorship. It truly is the world’s best floating classroom.
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