U researchers study sustainability on all 7 continents

The pair of explorers heads to Australia next.

Kali Dingman

A team from the University of Minnesota is traveling across all seven continents to understand how education and sustainability coincide.

Aaron Doering, a learning technologies associate professor, and his co-explorer Charlie Miller plan to travel to climate hotspots on all seven continents over the next four years to study how the changing climate has impacted people’s lives — the first study of its kind.

It’s called Earthducation, an adventure-learning project inspired by the United Nations’ Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

“There is a gap between how students are being educated and what they need to sustain their lives in their regions,” Doering said.

The mission of the project is to discover how the changing world is impacting people and how education will allow them to adjust to these changes.

The two researchers started their voyage in March 2010 in Nunavut, Northern Canada. They’ve since traveled to Africa and Norway. During these trips, they traveled 1,000 to 1,500 miles, Miller said.

The explorers speak with ordinary people, students and leaders to hear their takes on how education is shifting as a result of the climate change. They ask the same three questions:

  • Define what education means to you.
  • Define what sustainability means to you.
  • How do you believe the two can intersect?

“The people are extremely welcoming because they want their voice to be heard because no one else is listening,” Doering said.

The team reports their findings daily on the website earthducation.com. Not only do they post pictures, video and audio of their experiences, but they also have a link on their website, Environnetwork, which allows anyone to share his or her perspective on education and sustainability.

Doering and Miller have conducted about 80 formal interviews, and there have been more than 100 posts from teachers, students and the general public, graduate research assistant Jeni Henrickson said.

In two weeks, Doering and Miller will leave for their next destination: Australia. They will travel to different parts of the country, including the Great Barrier Reef, and spend time with the Aborigine people.

Doering and Miller say this project is unique to the University because it is the first study to span over the course of three or more years and explore all seven continents.

Their journey will end in Antarctica in 2014.