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IPY 2012 Montreal Conference – PolarEDUCATORS workshop

Good afternoon all,

Finally found some time to work on part of the photos taken last week in Montreal during the International Polar Year (IPY) 2012 Conference “From Knowledge to Action”. Today, I’d like to share with you some of the photos taken during the PolarEDUCATORS workshop prior to the start of the conference.

It was such a priviledge to be part of this memorable event reuniting over 170 educators, scientists and representatives from the circumpolar native nations. People flew in from all 5 continents! The countries represented were: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Zaire. So neat to see that polar education is not reserved to the circumpolar countries as one might be tempted to assume.

To start things off, here is a short video summarizing what the PolarEDUCATORS workshop was all about:

After the welcome reception on Friday evening, it was time to get a good night’s rest as the following morning we had to be up and ready at 7:30AM to jump in the metro and head to Montreal’s Space for life complex where the workshop was being held.

At 8:30AM, Geoff Green, founder and president of Students on Ice, welcomed us all and declared the workshop open!

Geoff Green.

Anne Charpentier, director of Montreal’s Insectarium, then took the stage and welcomed us to Montreal’s Space for Life, a natural science complex combining the Insectarium, the Biodome, the Botanical Gardens and the Planetarium. She explained the vision and the goals of this new and evolutive concept where outreach, conservation, education and research initiatives will invite us all to look at nature in a different light.

Anne Charpentier, director of the Insectarium

Next, Dr. Peter Harrison, Chair of the IPY 2012 From Knowledge to Action Conference, greeted us and gave us some insight on the exciting program for the week ahead. Dr Harrison admitted that he was simply blown away by the interest in the poles. The organizing commitee had initially planned for 30 exhibitors. Close to 100 registered! Over 2500 individuals registered to attend the conference! A significantly higher number than expectations. As Dr. Harrison said, this conference is the beginning instead of the end of International Polar Year!

Dr. Peter Harrison

Dr. José Xavier’s gave us a most dynamic & enthousiastic overview of the polar regions and polar education. José is an Antarctic marine biologist based at the Institute of Marine Research of the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and a guest scientist of the British Antarctic Survey (UK). He strongly encouraged teachers to get in touch with the scientists as they play a crucial in building bridges between the scientists and the general public. Scientists will become better if they learn to talk to educators and students. José also explained how polar science was unknown in Portugal before IPY and how their efforts creating an educational program, organizing forums for teachers, etc. have paid off.

Dr. José Xavier

Karen Edwards, coordinator for the Canadian International Polar Year (IPY) Secretariat from 2004-2010, introduced us to the ressource guide “Polar Science and Global Climate – An International Resource for Education and Outreach”. This bible of polar research was first released in Oslo in 2010. As stated in the guide’s introduction: “It is a response to the continual requests from teachers, early career and senior scientists worldwide wishing to raise awareness of the importance of polar science.” Karen has given us numerous examples of how the book has been used: course development, research skill development, field trips for data collection, guest lectures, educational expeditions, workshops, climate change activism, fundraising, and on and on.

Karen Edwards

For the entire duration of the workshop, Kara Stonehouse of AHA! Graphic facilitation, was standing on stage attentively listening and observing what was going on and transcribing the main messages into a graphical output. The result was simply fascinating!

Kara Stonehouse

Kara Stonehouse

Dr. Eric Galbraith, oceanographer and assistant professor at McGill University, talked about the atmosphere and oceans. His research focuses on global ocean circulation. One of the topics he touched on was Argo (an observation system for the Earth’s oceans that provides real-time data for use in climate, weather, oceanographic and fisheries research). Over 3000 underwater robots collect data about water temperature and salinity. If I understood correctly you can go on Google and click on any float to see the data it has recorded. I’ll have to try it out!!

Dr. Eric Galbraith

The morning ended with our first workshop session. Educators had to choose one of 7 proposed workshops focusing on Atmosphere and Oceans: State of water, The role of the Arctic Ocean in northern hemisphere weather, Dive into the polar oceans, Marine biology in polar regions: why polar bears do not eat penguins, … were some of the workshops offered. I opted for the “Arctic knowledge perspective”, a round-table discussion about the place traditional knowledge plays in our scientific understanding of the Arctic. Roundtable participants were :

  • John Crump (GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian foundation that supports the work of the United Nations Environment Programme),
  • Johnny Issaluk (a famous Inuit athlete who wan over 200 medals at Arctic Games. Johnny was recently presented with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions towards improving the health and community well-being in Nunavut),
  • Rebecca Mearns (MA in Geography with a research focus on Inuit knowledge transfer between Elders and Youth at land-based camps),
  • Jennifer Provencher (Association Polar Early Career Scientists/Carleton University),
  • David Serkoak (drum maker, drum dancer, cultural instructor with the Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program).
  • "Arctic knowledge perspective" roundtable discussion

    John Crump and David Serkoak

    All agreed that trying to separate science and Inuit knowledge is counter productive. Rebecca explained how she wants Inuit knowledge to be the basis of her study on caribous and have science fill the gaps. Inuit knowledge is not an historic knowledge. It is very much active.

    Language teacher Robert Suvlu from Barrow, Alaska also contributed to the discussion. He explained how the land and the ocean are the Inuits’ way of life. Their knowledge is based on their senses such as sight and earing, on spatial intelligence, winds, snow drifts, cloud formations, etc. but changes are currently happening too fast and have a major impact on their traditional knowledge.

    Robert Suvlu

    Note: On Saturday night, during a reception at the McCord Museum we were treated to a demonstration of inuit games by Johnny Issaluk. A few days later, at the Polar Film Festival, we had the surprise of seeing Johnny featured in a short film: Inuit High Kick. Check the link to see Johnny perform the high kick in slow motion. Impressive!

    After the lunch break, the afternoon session resumed with a presentation by Dr. James White, director of INSTAAR, the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, at the University of Colorado. His presentation entitled Sustainability, Climate Change and the Earth’s Polar Regions – What you should know and why you should care clearly showed that mankind has altered the earth’s balance and changed the climate. As Dr. White explained, we have caused 10 times more erosion than all natural processes and we make more fertilizer than all bacteria in the world! We have already passed the point of no return as far as climate change goes. It is now inevitable but we have to act now otherwise changes will be even stronger.

    Dr. James White

    Kara Stonehouse continues to capture the day's events.

    The next presenter, Dr. Eric Mattson, Nipissing University, talked to us about ice, land and space. One of the aspects he covered was how the sea ice getting thinner, the snow cover diminishing, the ice on lakes and rivers disappearing earlier, … impact existing infrastructure built on top of permafrost (e.g. railroads, air strips, ice roads used in winter to link communities).

    Dr. Eric Mattson

    Then came the workshop session #2 highlighting ice, land and space topics. Polar educators had to choose one of 7 proposed workshops: Climate change: more than just polar bears, melting ice and consequences, looking at the polar regions through satellites: a NASA perspective, etc. I opted for the workshop lead by Dr James Raffan, Knowing Place: the land as teacher and the traditions of indigenous knowledge.

    Dr. James Raffan

    Back in the auditorium of the Botanical Gardens, we were then treated to a out of the ordinary talk show hosted by an Irish TV star, “Shameless Shamus” alias Dr. James Raffan.

    "Shameless Shamus"

    Guests appearing on the TV show included:

    • Dr. David Carlson, IPY International Programme Office
    • Karen Edwards, University of Alberta
    • Sandra Vanhove, International Polar Foundation
    • Louise Huffman, Antarctic Geological Drilling
    • David Serkoak, Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program
    • Dr. James White, University of Colorado
    • Dr. David Carlson and Karen Edwards being interviewed by Shameless Shamus

      The talk show's distinguished guests

      To end the first day’s activities, Kara walked us through the day’s drawings summarizing all presentations and workshops! Great work!

      Kara Stonehouse

      Day 2 started with Dr. David Carlson’s presentation on “Polar Issues – Frozen and Unfrozen Carbon in the North”. One of the topics he touched on was his method for calculating the carbon footprint of his grocery cart. If my notes are acurate, annually, the grocery shopping carts of all 7 billion people on the planet generate less than 1 Gigaton of carbon. IPY research has shown that fossil use by humans amounts to 3 Gigatons each year. From the 1960s to 2010, the amount of atmospheric carbon has increased from 700 to 850 Gigatons. But was is even more worrysome is the fact that 1750 Gigatons are emprisoned in the East Siberian Arctic shelf and 1000 Gigatons are emprisoned in the top 3 meter of the planet’s permafrost. The process of going from a frozen to an unfrozen planet is already underway. Is the impact finished or ahead? It will all depend on the actions that will be taken by all. Sorry! I guess I was not awake yet! I have no photos of Dr. Carlson on stage ;-(

      The next presenter, Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) gave us a personnal and moving account of her childhood and explained the major milestones in recent Inuit history. She described how Inuit have gone from having all decisions made for them by non-Inuit to having signed several land claim agreements, Nunatsiavut’s being the latest one in 2005. She also explained how the education deficit in Inuit communities is one of the biggest social challenges the Inuit are currently facing and one she takes very much at heart.

      Mary Simon

      The day’s activities continued with two workshop sessions back to back. The third series of workshops focused on People with topics such as “drumming, song writing and a social history of Nunavut”, connecting to people of the Arctic, healthy bodies and healthy minds: inuit traditions and connection to land. The fourht series of workshops was a potpourri with topics such as “what can plants and animals tell us about how the tundra is changing?”, films for polar education, the role of the Arctic Ocean in northern hemisphere weather, melting ice and consequences, …

      Following the workshops, Lisa Glithero, founder of the EYES Project (a Canadian not-for-profit organization committed to bringing a sustainability imperative into educational pedagogy and practice), talked to us about mobilizing knowledge to action.

      Lisa Glithero

      The next step was for the polar educators to break up into distinct sessions to explore ways to relating to mobilizing knowledge to action. We then reconvened and representatives of each group gave a summary of the discussions.

      Group 1 – Examining best practices of integrating polar education into classroom teaching practices
      Group 2 – PolarEDUCATORS professional development network
      Group 3 – Connecting urban education with polar education
      Group 4 – Exploring polar education learning strategies that foster/enhance eco-justice oriented civic engagement
      Group 5 – Polar Education Network
      Group 6 – Leveraging funding opportunities to support polar education
      Group 7 – Polar education in post-secondary education and professional development
      Group 8 – From margins to mainstream education (polar education as a visceral experience for the masses and using technology and social media for polar education)

      To end the PolarEDUCATORS workshop, Dr. James Raffan read a poem made up of sentences heard during the break out sessions presentations. He then went on to become the conductor of the very first Polar Educators Choir!! What a wonderful way to end this workshop and motivate the troups to take action and ensure a bright future for polar education!

      Dr. James Raffan

      Here is the link where the Polar Educators Choir can be heard 😉 Just copy and paste the link.

      Here is the link to have a look at Kara Stonehouse’s drawings.

      Thank you to the Students on Ice team for taking on the challenge to make this PolarEDUCATION workshop a reality!

      The Students on Ice team: Katrina Adams, Clare Glassco, Tim Straka, Niki Trudeau and Geoff Green

7 comments to IPY 2012 Montreal Conference – PolarEDUCATORS workshop

  • Janet Nadeau

    This is a wonderful epistle of the week’s events. It really was an amazing week.

  • Concetta Young

    Thank you for putting this together.

  • Ingo Peters

    France, what a coincidence that I was attending a conference on Knowledge brokering, sharing, and mobilization, and here you are, attending a conference that really puts the theory into practice!
    Good job on the write-up, it looks like it was a very worthwhile event.
    I see you as a Knowledge Broker, a facilitator who connects environment researchers to “on-the-ground” practitioners. Keep up the good work!

    For reference, I blogged about the K* (all the Knowledge variants, e.g. Knowledge translation, exchange, mobilization, and so on) here:

  • Bonnie Anderson

    so this is what happened when I was running around outside – thanks for the notes and the photos – this is great now I feel whole – thank you so much

  • John Wood

    Thank you for the time and care you put in to this. This makes a good tool for sharing with others who where not there.

  • Salut France,

    The PolarEDUCATOR Workshop was one of the best learning and networking experiences I have ever had. You were part of this experience, thank you very much. I am reading your blog regularly, it’s very interesting. Hope to meet you again in the not so distant future!

  • France

    Thanks a lot Dany! Hope everything is going well at your end.

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