Four educators from Minnesota leave today for a two-and-a-half week arctic expedition in Canada, where they plan to ski and fend off polar bears in between stops in several communities to help schoolchildren document stories about how climate change has affected people's lives.
Aaron Doering, a University of Minnesota professor in the Learning Technologies Program, will lead the expedition, called North of Sixty. Doering has been on several environmental education expeditions for other projects in the past and collected stories for the current project during a trip to Alaska in February.
Doering said the team, which includes a Twin Cities high school teacher, will work with students on northern Baffin Island to record video of their elders talking about life, including knowledge about local ecology. The stories will be woven together and will be shared within the communities as well as with the rest of the world on the web, Doering said.
"My ultimate goal is to literally capture the voices from the arctic," Doering said. "I think what we're going to find is like what I've found on every other continent in the world: that the times are changing, the climate definitely is changing, the way that they are living their life is changing."
Doering said the education students are receiving often doesn't include lessons in how to sustain themselves in a traditional way, such as through fishing and hunting caribou. That's the type of knowledge elders will likely share with the schoolchildren, he said.
The team will experience its own lessons on how to sustain themselves during the trip, Doering said. The group will ski from place to place, pulling sleds carrying all of their supplies, such as tents, cooking stoves, even "bear bangers."
Doering said the devices, which scare polar bears with a loud sound or flare, will likely be needed. "We've had bears in camp before," he said. "You just shoot them at the ground in front of the bears, and hopefully they move on."
Doering will be joined by two University of Minnesota Ph.D. students and Chris Ripken, a geography teacher at Centennial High School in Circle Pines. A fifth team member will join the expedition to help document the project.