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Mille Porsild shows off a husky at the 2004 state fair.

Mille Porsild, cofounder of Nomads Online Classroom Expeditions, shows off a husky to visitors the 2004 Minnesota State Fair. Porsild and Paul Pregont will be back at the fair at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on September 3 at the University of Minnesota building.

U program connects K-12 students with adventurers

By Amy Anderson

Published on September 2, 2005

It may be the dog days of summer in Minnesota, but University of Minnesota faculty--and school-age kids from across the country--are doing some cool thinking thanks to the U's adventure learning program. Now in its fifth year, the adventure learning program centers around an interactive, real-time online curriculum that builds connections between schools and arctic expeditions.

The program started when University assistant professor Aaron Doering wanted to find a way to meld his love of teaching and technology with his passion for the environment. Doering partnered with education adventurers Mille Porsild and Paul Pregont, founders of Nomads Online Classroom Expeditions, to create an online curriculum directly related to their Arctic Transect 2004 expedition, which focused on global warming and Inuit culture.

Hundreds of thousands of students from schools around the world used Internet connections to follow Doering and his fellow adventurer-educators as they dog-sledded through the Arctic region. The students completed research-based assignments in subjects from math and science to literature and art--all related to the expedition's experiences.

"The program brings global awareness into the K-12 curriculum through adventure learning, exploration, and discovery," says Doering. "Through the expeditions and the online curriculum, students will understand their relationship with the Arctic. This will help them to have an appreciation for the interrelationships between humans and the environment from a local to a global scale."

Students could send questions to the Arctic team via e-mail about anything from how many dogs they had pulling their sleds, to how much impact global warming is having on the Arctic, to how an Inuit elder builds an igloo. Team members received the e-mails on their satellite phones and provided immediate answers to the students.

"We operate from an interactive Web site that is a first in that students from all over the world can exchange projects on the subject of the week," Doering adds. "It's a collaboration zone that allows students to learn, not just the lesson, but about each other. No expensive software is needed to access and use the site--just a normal browser--and translation software handles the different languages."

In their next educational adventure, scheduled for February 2006, Doering, Porsild, and Pregont will travel to Alaska on an educational, scientific, and cultural journey through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Visiting with the native Gwiich'n and Inuit peoples, the team will explore the impact of climate change on the environment and on indigenous ecological knowledge and practice. The team will provide free classroom curriculum guides that support the regular online interactions between the team on the trail and their students in the classrooms.

On September 3, state fair visitors can meet Pregont and Porsild and the polar huskies that joined them on the 2004 Arctic Transect Expedition. They'll be on the stage at the University of Minnesota building at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

For more information, and to find out more about how K-12 classrooms can participate in "Go North! 2006," see polarhusky. For more about adventure learning curriculum at the University, see adventure learning.

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