The circumpolar Arctic is being impacted by the most rapid and widespread environmental changes on Earth. Sustainability threats cut across the social-ecological spectrum, affecting human, plant, and animal populations alike. The mission of North of Sixty° is to collaborate with schools from around the Arctic to create a global tapestry of video stories that weave together both an ecological and cultural narrative of the Arctic. In the process, we encourage students to become aware of, and actively seek solutions to, sustainability issues related to the natural environment, culture, and language in their community. The design challenge was to create an online environment and technology tools that were engaging and easily accessible to teachers and students, that allowed students to capture experiences outside school walls, and that offered multiple options for sharing content. In response, we provided select schools with mobile technology kits, preloaded apps, training, and an uncluttered online environment that synchs with the mobile devices and with provided school Vimeo accounts. The project design incorporated principles that could be used by others looking to design similar projects, including reflective presence, motivation, educator support, and a pared-down aesthetic.
A key goal of North of Sixtyº is to scaffold students in the collection of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to help them gain deeper understanding of challenges previous generations have faced and of the wealth and value of traditional knowledge housed within their community. In collecting and sharing stories about their communities, students also become aware of, and ideally begin to seek active solutions to, sustainability issues related to the natural resources in their community.
In many Arctic communities, there’s a disconnect between local cultural expectations and what and how students are being taught. Working with youth in regions strongly impacted by environmental and cultural change, North of Sixtyº encourages experiential learning and dialogue between generations around sustainability issues that matter greatly to communities relying heavily on the land and social traditions for survival. We’re also providing schools with alternative means of engaging with students and communities they serve.
North of Sixtyº is providing youth with skills training in twenty-first century technologies, including mobile and online tools, that are critical in remote communities and that can lead to new job opportunities in the far north, where unemployment runs high. The project is also providing professional development to teachers in regions where teaching staff have fewer training opportunities and are often unprepared for the technological and cultural challenges they face.
North of Sixtyº provides both a means for Arctic youth to engage with sustainability issues tied to their culture and natural environment, as well as a forum for citizens in more southern realms to learn about the Arctic from people who live there. Much media focused on the Arctic centers on ice statistics, polar bears, and natural resources. North of Sixtyº presents a differently compelling perspective showing the human impact of the changing North.
The circumpolar Arctic is being impacted not only by the most rapid and widespread environmental changes on Earth, but also by some of the most rapid political, economic, and sociocultural changes, many of which are in themselves tied to the land and its natural resources. Sustainability threats cut across the social-ecological spectrum, affecting human, plant, and animal populations alike.
The North of Sixty° project is empowering students and teachers in remote villages around the circumpolar Arctic to capture sustainability stories from their communities and engage in discussion about what challenges their communities face and how students might help influence the future of their land and culture. We’ve provided schools in six communities (in Alaska, USA; Nunavut, Canada; Digermulen, Norway; Murmansk, Russia; and Kilpisjärvi, Finland) with mobile technology kits and training to gather video stories from Elders, knowledge keepers, and others that speak to traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and to changes that have occurred and/or are occurring in the land and culture of their region. The goal is that students will (1) engage with learning in a new way and outside school walls, (2) gain a deeper understanding of challenges previous generations have faced and of the wealth and value of traditional knowledge housed within their community, and (3) become aware of and actively seeking solutions to sustainability issues related to the natural environment, culture, and language in their community.
The North of Sixty° team has provided schools with the tools to capture these narratives. We’ve also designed and developed an online learning environment in which to share these narratives that is conducive to the needs of Arctic schools (related to such concerns as user-friendliness and simplicity for speakers of differing languages; Internet access and speeds; and teacher comfort level and training with technology). Within this environment, classrooms around the world can learn about sustainability issues directly from residents in the Arctic, as well as access classroom activities and resources tied to sustainability, culture, and climate change.
Our team has been providing teachers and students at the North of Sixty° schools with training. Several North of Sixty° team members also participated in a pulking expedition between two remote communities on the Baffin Island in Canada to learn more about the land, people, and culture while visiting schools there and conducting personal interviews with Elders around traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). We continue to speak with teachers, Elders, and administrators in participating Arctic communities to learn more about community needs tied to sustainability issues, as well as identify innovative programs being put into play that seek to actively engage youth with their natural environment and in joint experiential learning activities centered on TEK with Elders in their community.