For the first time, Canadians are joining a program of Arctic and Antarctic expeditions created for teachers to collect stories, data and photographs that will help their students learn about climate change and the environment.
National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions have been sending American teachers to icy locations such as the Arctic, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica since 2006 and applications were opened to Canadian educators for the first time this year. There were over 1,300 applicants, and three Canadians were amongst the 25 teachers chosen as Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Scholars.
One of the educators, Garrett Norman, is an outdoor education teacher with the Toronto District School Board. He returned just over a week ago from the Arctic, where he learned about ice floes, polar bears and documented evidence of climate change.
"It's provided me with a whole lot of inspiration to bring environmental and geographical issues back into the classroom," he said.
Mr. Norman will spend the summer months crafting lesson plans based on his experiences. Aside from the obvious links to ecosystems, climate change, food chains and geography, the 35-year-old educator intends to tie his trip to parts of the math curriculum.
"Things like calculating how much water is in a glacier," he said.
Sven Lindblad, the owner of Lindblad Expeditions, started the program as a way to inject more natural sciences into the classroom. His company donates the seats on the expeditions -- which cost about $10,000 each, depending on the destination -- and a pre-voyage workshop at National Geographic headquarters in Washingston, D.C. is paid for through a variety of sources, including private donors.
Mr. Lindblad decided teachers were the best way to reach a younger generation, to teach them about the impact of climate change on polar regions without getting political. He is working to expand the program, and hopes to send 50 teachers on expeditions next year.
"Our generation, current adults, don't seem to be willing to deal with these issues in a substantive way, you've got to put some significant bets on subsequent generations," he said.