Arctic 2018 Expedition: Reflections from Sarah (Boux) Bouckoms

September  2018

It’s been over a month now since I’ve gotten back from the Arctic. I could have written
this then but I wanted to be sure. I wanted to be sure that it was real. That I wasn’t on some post
expedition high that I would dwindle down from and say “oh, it was ok”. But that has not been
the case as I still can’t find the words to describe the trip. Even this blog is a futile effort. And yet
it’s ONLY been a month. I can already see the ways the connections, the knowledge gained, the
people have affected my life. So as I think that it’s been a long time, I am sure that it is only just
the beginning.

Miriame (left) and Boux (right) enjoying the Twin Flames performance in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland.

 

What I expected to learn about was the Arctic, Climate Change, Inuit Culture, Truth and
Reconciliation, and engage with students and their projects. All of that came true and then
some. But it was the way that we were given the information that really rung true for me. You
see I was struggling as a classroom teacher who saw engaged students asking questions and
they can’t contain themselves. They didn’t care if the bell rang or if the material was on the test,
they just wanted to learn. Those little moments led me to think there must be something more
when that same student would do poorly on a test, or disengage in large classroom discussions.
Was it the material, the presentation style, the assessment, the teacher, the proximity to grades
closing that made the difference for that student? I’ve been searching in the dark how to
describe what I was seeing in the classroom, fumbling with words, yet none of it doing the trick.
Till a lecture. A powerpoint lecture. The exact opposite place of where you expect to learn about
learning.

In this lecture given by James Raffin “JR” we were learning about the SOI curve. The
learning process that occurs during the expedition and after. The steps for learning, teaching
and gaining information. In it, JR made a statement that I have quoted as he so eloquently
summed up how I feel about education. It makes sense after all that he is good with words, he is
an author. “If you really want a student to learn, the information has to enter their hands and
their feet, go through their heart before it enters their brain”. Feel free to reread that line as its a
true gem. That is why I wanted to take my students outside the classroom with hands on
experiences. Students On Ice has mastered that. Oh you want to learn about glaciology well,
lets build glaciers with putty and while we’re at it, look outside. See how the massive rocks are
deposited by past glaciers, watch icebergs calve from the terminus, study morain walls that
mark the ghosts of glaciers past. There were glaciologists on board to answer questions, not
just during the moment but later, a week later, over dinner, when you’ve had time to settle your
thoughts and come up with your next question. This example was done over and over countless
times with whatever topic you fancies. The lines between teacher, student and collaborator were
often blurred as someone would say the latin name of a plant species, and then someone would
say that it was used to cure rashes, while yet another person would chime in with an idea of a
video project to blend the IQ knowledge with science knowledge. It really was an authentic
learning environment that promoted a true love of learning.

I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about myself. Or to see pieces of me in other staff
members on board the ship. The most unexpected token of knowledge was getting to know so
many awesome women. They were in all walks of life, various stages of careers, some just
floating back and forth between their bi-polar jobs, some juggling relationships, some single
moms, some powerhouse scientists. But yet there we all were taking the time out of our busy
lives to be here now working with these students. It was really empowering for me to see so
many strong women. It gave me the courage to know there were other lifestyles out there, that I
didn’t need to be held back by the notion that I needed a steady job, permanent address or
retirement plan. There were other ways to be responsible adults and still be able to adventure.
But most importantly, that teachers can be zodiac driver’s, students and museum staff. You
never know where your next lesson will come from.

Now I wish that SOI was every week of the year, however that is not possible. But I do
now know that there are so many other forms of education, lifestyle, and experiential learning
that exist in the world, that there must be other options and possibilities. As I said from the start,
I can already tell that this is just the beginning. The Alumni program is strong, the relationships
I’ve forged with students and staff are only at the tip of the iceberg.

Boux (far right) participating in a warm up exercise before starting a workshop on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Soon I’m off to Antarctica working on a tourist ship. If you’re keen to follow along check
out www.windowlessclassroom.com. It will have been a decade since I was there during grad
school for research. While seemingly similar, it will be a totally different experience to being on
board a ship with 128 students compared to 198 non-english speaking guests. However, it will
be cold and icy. Those are the kinds of places I find the warmest people.

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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.