Students go online for outdoor adventure

Angela Gray

Explorers and educators are using maps, compasses and special laptops that can survive 50-below-zero temperatures to connect environmental issues with K-12 students across the globe.

This week marks the kickoff of the adventure learning program “Go North! Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 2006.”

The program, which involves 900 Minnesota schools and 3,000 schools globally, delivers an online curriculum centered on the realities of oil exploration and the search for renewable resources while crossing academic disciplines.

University professor Aaron Doering is the program’s education director. He said that while collaborating with students and teachers live in the online learning environment, an expedition team will document its findings to help students understand patterns of climate change.

The international team of men and women will embark on a 700-mile journey across the Alaskan Arctic by dogsled while delivering to classrooms worldwide a K-12 online curriculum.

Doering said the team in Alaska will provide daily and weekly trail reports.

He said the trail reports, photos and video are synchronized with the schools’ curricula.

“The motivation for teachers and students is getting to learn from real-world experiences,” Doering said.

Doering said the team will collect data and interview Alaska residents for and against oil drilling, discuss global warming and how their lives have changed over the years as a result.

This research is conducted in collaboration with NASA and the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation and is brought into the classroom by lead teachers.

Lead teachers like Mick Hamilton support the development of the program and associated research and outreach.

They participate in educational conferences, classroom workshops and informational meetings highlighting the educational resources during their commitment.

Hamilton said adventure learning has a great place in today’s classroom.

“As our budgets get smaller and smaller, this is the next best

thing to getting out in the field,” he said. “Although nothing can replace being in the field, our students need to experience the research and exploration interactively.”

Lead teacher Sheryl Cater said engaging children to love reading, math, science and social studies can be a challenge.

” ‘Go North!’ is one of the few free educational online learning programs that crosses all academic disciplines,” she said, “and is designed so that a first-grade child or adult will find enjoyment.”

Jeffrey Sipper, also a lead teacher, said he sees the program as a bridge connecting cultures, geography and science. 

“The incredible depth of the Web site and curriculum literally gives me the chance to provide unlimited learning opportunities,” he said.