PR: Extreme teaching, technology creates Arctic classroom for all

Arctic Live 2016 Hero Encounter Edu

The fragile and fascinating Arctic environment is the setting for a unique education programme, XL Catlin Arctic Live, which kicked off on Monday 7th March with video lessons to schools across the world (from India to Cyprus, and the Czech Republic, UK, Bermuda and USA). This unique education event is running for two weeks from the world’s northernmost town Longyearbyen and northernmost permanent settlement of Ny-Ålesund, both situated on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Media outlets are invited to join classes in the UK and USA as well as speak to the Arctic education team, live, via video link.

One of the students taking part in this two-week live expedition event is Ricky who lives in Guatemala. His teacher shared this emotional message,

“I teach a class of 2nd graders at an international school in Guatemala. We are right in the middle of our Arctic unit. This morning I got this email from a parent, and it was so touching: Ricky has been fascinated about the North Pole and its animals, and he was so sensitive and concerned about animal extinction and the icebergs melting, that he cried, so for us it’s really nice for him to get to speak to a polar scientist and learn all the science facts, you guys teach!”

Now in its third year, XL Catlin Arctic Live gives Ricky and thousands of other students around the world, the chance to be part of a polar science expedition. The Arctic is undergoing huge changes, with reports of the melting of Greenland’s vast ice sheet caught in a dramatic “feedback loop” driving sea level rise and maximum sea ice extent at a record low since satellite records began for the past two months. On the island of Svalbard, the base for the expedition, February temperatures have been over 10 degrees Celsius above average.

The mission of the Arctic Live programme is to bring this remote environment to life for students across the world using the latest communications technology. Teaching about the changing environment and extreme science is made real through a combination of technologies now driving education and understanding.

Students can live chat via video link with the expedition team, view virtual reality video or 360-degree photospheres of Arctic research from the comfort of the classroom and back all this up with a swathe of resources created in collaboration with teachers, explorers and scientists.

The Arctic Live model is the brainchild of classroom teacher turned expedition educator, Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop. “When I was trying to teach about these amazing places in the classroom, I realised that traditional methods simply weren’t cutting it. The future of the Arctic is too important to leave to aging textbooks or a few slides,” he explains.

“Technology is moving so fast, it’s incredible. Five years ago, you wouldn’t have imagined that virtual reality video would be a feasible classroom tool or that you could video chat from the middle of the Arctic. I don’t know where this technology will end up, but anything teachers can use to bring these places to life has to be a bonus.”

Arctic Live forms part of XL Catlin’s Oceans Education programme which is focused on increasing ocean literacy around the world. It is a collaboration between XL Catlin, Digital Explorer the British Antarctic Survey, who operate the UK Arctic Research Station and Skype in the classroom, now part of the Microsoft Educator Community. It runs from 7-11 March 2016 in Longyearbyen, Svalbard and then from the UK Arctic Research Station in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard from 11-18 March 2016.

8 March 2016