“You have to love it before you are moved to save it.” – Sylvia Earle, Marine Biologist, Oceanographer and “Ocean Queen” according to Geoff Green

In this episode of The Brief, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Geoff Green, founder and president of the award-winning education program “Students on Ice”. Green is recognized as a passionate educator, social entrepreneur and adventurer. He has led over 110 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic as well as dozens of expeditions to other remote corners of the Earth. Our interview lends itself to provide a closer look at how his undertaking creates an innovative platform that influences the way we teach youth today. This platform helps to inform, inspire and communicate the importance of our connection to the planet. In this way, this original approach to teaching and learning has made it one of the greatest classrooms on Earth.

What is Students on Ice?

Since 1999 over 2,000 students from around the world have been enrolled in educational expeditions to both the Arctic and the Antarctic. By using the Polar Regions as classrooms, the goal of this pioneering project is to give the world’s youth a heightened understanding and respect for the planet’s global ecosystem, and the inspiration to protect it. These ship-based journeys provide passengers the opportunity to obtain a more tangible focus from their floating home/classroom. A team of passionate experts including: teachers, scientists, historians, oceanographers, ornithologists, musicians, artists and leaders, join the students in their endeavors. The focal point of this program is to attempt to paint a broad overview of the Arctic all the while focusing on science, culture, and history, as well as contemporary and environmental issues. The teachings are diverse and span from lectures, experiments and workshops to water and land exploration activities.

In addition to this platform Students on Ice is creating an experimental learning environment through the exchanges of ideas and tactile engagement. It also has the potential to transform the student by allowing them the opportunity to spend time with fellow students from other cultures, and most importantly – Mother Nature. According to Green, “having Inuit youth together with youth from southern Canada, New York City, China, adds to the whole experience. It is so enriching and it impacts everyone.” These students learn by collecting and sharing their knowledge all the while being removed from their comfort zone and the distractions of their typical day-to-day lifestyles.

The making of Students on Ice

Green confesses he accidentally came across the concept for the program. There was no big vision, but one thing he did know for sure was – he was going to use the Polar Regions as classrooms. In the early 1990’s, he began leading expeditions with a more mature group, including scientists, elders, and film crews. In many cases, these travelers were cynical about the topic of climate change; they were set in their old ways of thinking. Despite the cynicism, the group’s outlook on the subject began to shift after being introduced to these regions. Something was making them look at the planet, themselves, and their relationships with nature differently. This process allowed for a very transformative experience in a relatively short period of time. He later realized how pivotal this type of awareness could be for younger generations. According to Green, it was crucial to offer these life-changing experiences to students of a younger age group. As a result, a simple premise for the program was born.

Technology and the classroom

Green understands the influential impact that the program has on the youth of Students on Ice, and acknowledges that technology plays an important role in the distribution and accessibility of information both within and without of the program. Technology has, after all, increased the education and cultural engagement of the organization through digital platforms like the Internet, social media, video sharing and the cellular phone. These platforms are also an integral part of the lifestyles of today`s generation of students, and has helped them in maintaining communication with their audiences before, during and after their expeditions.

Green notes that although technology is great, there needs to a balance. For years, they had a “no technology policy” on the expeditions. The leaders wanted their students to be disconnected from the technological world; they wanted them to be fully engaged in the present moment. They knew it would allow the youth to reintegrate with Mother Nature by letting them see, touch and feel the experience with more awareness. Disconnecting was a way for them to strip away what the students were familiar with, allowing them the opportunity to build themselves back up, and ultimately shaping their future to some extent. It is through this holistic approach to finding that balance between technology, the cultural emotional experience, the heart and the mind that Green basis his education philosophy.

What`s Next for Students on Ice?

Going forward, they will continue to strengthen their relationships with their amazing partnerships and build new, strategic, long-term affiliations in order to sustain their funding cycle. They have just launched a $10 million dollar endowment fund that will be part of their equation. For the immediate future, Students on Ice is currently working with bv02, on a digital strategy, which aims to bring the project owners, their networks and targeted audiences even closer together. We look forward to providing an update to this post in the coming year.

Want to know more about Students on Ice, and how you can contribute to their organization? Email andrew.milne@bv02.com or call 613-231-2802 x351.


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