This research is focused on the participation of Northern students in the youth program called Students on Ice (SOI). SOI is a non-profit foundation based in Gatineau, Quebec that takes youth ages 14-24 from around the world on ship-based educational expeditions to the Polar Regions. Deeply embedded in the education program and expedition experience are science education, the spirit of exploration, experiential learning, and youth leadership development. A growing number of youth and adults from the circumpolar regions (Alaska, Canada [Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik/Northern Quebec, Nunatsiavut/Labrador] and Greenland) participate in SOI each year. SOI continues to make program changes to better respond to and include Northerners.
In the context of this unique youth experience, this research asks:
1. What dimensions of the SOI experience (before, during and after) have the most significant impacts on Northern youth and educators, especially in terms of (but not limited to):
a. supporting personal growth, education and leadership skills?
b. encouraging engagement with and ongoing dialogue regarding important Arctic issues, such as (but
not limited to) climate change?
2. What dimensions of the SOI experience best facilitate learning from the perspectives of Northerners about
3. Based on the experiences and perspectives of Northerners, how can SOI improve its programs to increase
responsiveness to Northern peoples and communities?
The research was conducted on the 2016 Arctic expedition, involving multiple methods: participant observation, pre-expedition and end-of-expedition workshops, one-on-one interviews with staff members, small group interviews with students, one-on-one interviews by phone after the expedition with students, and analysis of documents such as feedback forms and social media postings.
This report offers a detailed account of the Northern youth experience on SOI, and the integration of Northern perspectives during the program, from my own perspective as well as those of students and staff. As a partially ethnographic project, it attempts to give descriptive insight into how SOI works and how being part of SOI affects participants. As a partially evaluative project, this report summarizes 54 suggestions for improvements or initiatives that should be continued. In general, the improvements that Northern youth could benefit from consist of ongoing efforts to help them express themselves (including their fears and challenges), discuss difficult topics relevant to their communities, set goals and realize those goals during and after the expedition.
Northern youth were greatly affected by: the Northern student pre-program; becoming proud “Arctic Ambassadors”; relationships with Inuit and non-Indigenous Northern staff members; visiting the abandoned village of Hebron; going through the process of leaving home, becoming comfortable away and then returning; participating in experiential environmental education; and, the opportunity to take risks. I found that Northern perspectives were made a central part of SOI’s educational program by: having as many Northern youth and adults on board as possible; respect shown to Northern cultures by SOI staff; integration of Northern perspectives throughout the program; and, having personal encounters with places that represent an Arctic homeland.
I gratefully acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for providing my post- doctoral research salary, and Students on Ice for covering the costs of my travel on the expedition.||en