Arctic Studies: first day of school

After a summer of anticipation, the Arctic Studies elective has finally begun!  The class is under the umbrella of our science department, but I hope to make this a truly interdisciplinary course that is driven mainly by student interest.  The class is composed of 12 seniors, 4 juniors, and 1 sophomore.  

I began our meeting today by talking briefly about my Grosvenor Fellowship with National Geographic Education and Lindblad Expeditions, and using Google Tour Builder to quickly and visually show my route to Svalbard. 

I was very curious to find out a few things from my students on the first day, so I gave them a brief survey – here are the questions and results:

1. As you begin this class, how would you define “The Arctic”?  (write out a definition or jot down words/phrases that come to mind).

Most students chose to list words/phrases:

  • the north pole
  • very cold
  • ice and snow
  • above a certain latitude
  • polar bears
  • no penguins live there
  • dark in winter/light in summer
  • seals
  • glaciers
  • global warming
  • research and discoveries
  • unique animals/plants/terrain/weather
  • the ice that polar bears live on at each pole
  • whales
  • nobody lives there
  • bottom/top of the world
  • penguins live there
  • top of the world
  • not much sunlight
  • threatened because of pollution
  • very few people live there, and their way of living is different than ours
  • encompasses parts of Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia
  • tundra
  • arctic fox
  • hard to get there/not a typical vacation destination
  • land covered in ice
  • youngest topography on earth?
  • animals must adapt to global warming and melting ice

I see that right away we must at least sort out penguins and polar bears vs. Arctic and Antarctic!  I plan to spend our next couple of classes defining the Arctic and doing some mapping/geography to get everyone oriented.

2. Why are you taking this class?  (be honest!)

  • to learn about the Arctic
  • to learn about Dr. Sheldon’s expedition
  • to learn about the animals
  • because it’s a unique and new class
  • to help me discover fields I want to study in college
  • because I like science and look forward to learning something new
  • because I didn’t want to take biology
  • because I love marine biology
  • because I like the teacher
  • because previous science classes have been really hard for me, but this one sounds fun
  • because my mom is making me take a science class
  • as an international student, I want to take a class that is more extraordinary than what I can take at home
  • because it’s the only class that fits in my schedule
  • because I am looking forward to some choice in what I learn about
  • because I love world travel and learning about other countries
  • to learn about the animals and how the environment affects them
  • to learn how global warming affects the Arctic

I found these answers to be most interesting.  It’s good to be reminded that students have ended up in this non-required class for all sorts of reasons.

3. What do you hope to learn about in this class? 

  • wildlife/animals (10 students wrote about this)
  • geography
  • oceanography (2)
  • global warming (2)
  • snow and ice (2)
  • mountains
  • people in the Arctic: culture/lifestyle, jobs, studies, history (5)
  • pollution (2)
  • what can I do to help the Arctic?
  • how the environment is changing, and how people are affecting it (2)

Animals and humans appear to be the hooks that can help us get started.

4. Anything else you would like me to know?

  • My aunt and uncle have visited islands close to Antarctica
  • I want more labs!
  • My aunt works for Lindblad Expeditions
  • My uncle lived/worked in Antarctica
  • picture of the day: drawing of the day

Great to identify some family members of students who might be able to share experiences with us!

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