Students line up in 2021 to enter school in the morning. Photo by Erin Towns

    For two years we have waited to deploy on this expedition. The primary goal of my experience is to communicate what Polar scientists are doing in the Arctic with students. Because we had extra time to prep, we decided to try some new things to get students engaged and excited about new topics related to Arctic and polar studies.

    Candidly, on any given day, I do not know what I am doing. It has been 22 years of trial and error, and this continues on. These are a few of the things tried in and out of the classroom with Maine students with varying degrees of success to introduce, teach, and prep them for Arctic adventures.

    Real Life is Interdisciplinary

    Real life in this case is about the Arctic and the State of Maine. In order to get these young women, men, and future leaders interested, we have been busy using visual arts, social studies, and environmental science to get kids interested in and studying the Arctic and engaging in their local and state communities.

    Activities, Topics, and Shenanigans

    Students use collaboration, problem solving, and communication skills to piece together a new perspective of the world for their peers in an Arctic Map Activity. Photo by Erin Towns

    Visual arts are used in the course to provide a lens for learning. Students use photography and sketching a lot. A field trip to the Portland Museum of Art to view the North Atlantic Triennial Down Иorth Exhibit, co organized by the Portland Museum of Art, the Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland, and the Bildmuseet Sweden introduced them to contemporary art of the North Atlantic region. They had a chance to view a series of maps from the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education which explored ideas of turning the North upside-down. Back in the classroom students learned from one of the exhibit artists, Justin Levesque who spoke about relationships between Arctic images and objects and social media.

    Student closely studies Arngunnur Ýr's interpretation of an Icelandic landscape at the North Atlantic Triennial Down Иorth Exhibit. Photo by Erin Towns

    Students learn the basics of earth and climate systems early on in the course. We study geographic and geologic features of Maine and photograph evidence of glaciers that once covered the state. Polar scientist, Dr. Seth Campbell from the University of Maine's School of Earth and ClimateThe average weather over a particular region of the Earth. Climate originates in recurring weather phenomenon that result from specific types of atmospheric circulation. Sciences presented Glaciology 101 with students via Zoom. My partner scientist and polar researcher, Dr. Sarah Das, Woods Hole Ocenographic Institution, made an appearance to discuss the project and glacier dynamics in Greenland and took on lots of student questions.

    Students present Arctic biodiversity projects. Photo by Erin Towns

    The Glacier Goo Activity. Students learn about glacier dynamics using this fun and somewhat chaotic activity. Photo by Erin Towns

    Time is taken to study the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime security issues, and Cold War history. We invited Maine Senator Angus King, one of the co-founders of the Arctic Caucus to speak about security and economic interests between Maine and the Arctic. Students have the chance to look at Arctic issues including Land Rights in the Sampi, Melting PermafrostPermanently frozen ground. in the Russian Arctic, the Northwest Passage Dispute, and Norwegian and Maine Aquaculture. Students end the course with an Arctic Council Simulation activity.

    Maine Senator and Arctic Caucus co-Chair, Angus King

    Economics can serve as a motivator for getting people to care about polar climate issues. Students learn about shipping and fishing industries, and territorial conflicts that arise due to competing business interests. We look at current mitigation and adaptation plans from local governments and hear from speakers who teach kids the importance of diversification in the future.

    Students visit Harbor Fish Market in Portland Maine learning about business, dependency, and diversification of the Maine fishing industry. Photo by Erin Towns

    Students at our high school are the beneficiaries of a grant program facilitated by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute which provides local seafood choices that are responsibly harvested and local. The aim is to transition to eating Maine fish that are plentiful including pollock and hake. The kids don't care much for the smell of it cooking downstairs but reports are, it tastes pretty good. Good news.

    Students listen to a Gulf of Maine Institute presentation about locally harvested seafood. Photo by Erin Towns

    Here in Maine we live on unseated lands of the Wabanaki Nations. Students look at conflict that arose in 2012 between the Penobscot Nation and the State of Maine over territorial boundaries in the Penobscot River and fishing rights. Politics, economics, society, environmental management, and culture are examined together. Students also become familiar with the six Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council that represent the Indigenous Peoples and study reindeer herding and Sami culture and economy.

    The traditional Sami clothing is called gákti, which in past times was made from reindeer leather and sinews, but is now more commonly made from wool, cotton, or silk. Women's gákti typically consist of a dress, a fringed shawl and boots/shoes made of reindeer fur or leather. Photo by Erin Towns

    We requested the PolarTREC Extreme Cold Weather Gear Kit too. We had fun with a number of photoshoots that had kids asking questions and learning more. Teachers got in on it too.

    The PolarTREC Extreme Cold Weather Gear Kit. Photo by Erin Towns

    Student Corner

    What has been your favorite activity, lesson, or event from this year so far? What about it made an impact on you?


    Mikaila Marks

    My favorite activity this year has to be either physically seeing how glaciers move through the glacier goo activity or the Portland Museum trip we all took together

    Erin T

    Both were fun. We need more field trips!

    Rylee C

    Some are my favorite activities are the sketch notes or photography assignments! I really enjoy how interactive your classes are. Having these assignments has encouraged me to improve my photography skills.

    Erin T

    Can't wait to see some of your photography work! You will be getting a chance before the year is out!

    Jenny C.

    My favorite activity this year was probably the slime, it was very hands on which I loved and it helped me visualize how glaciers work.

    Erin T

    That was something. LOL. Super fun class!