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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 4, January/February 2007

Canadian teachers breaking the ice

by Ellen Hardy

I had always dreamed of a trip to the Arctic to experience the true north. It has been a life-altering experience. I know that my students, colleagues, and I will be able to learn much from the children and teachers of the north.

An opportunity to travel with the Canadian Coast Guard came about after a field trip with my students in Grade 2 to the Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker stationed in Victoria. As the tour progressed the captain showed us the science labs that are used on the Arctic trips. He proceeded to tell me about an American teacher who travels with these scientists through a program called The Armada Project, http://tea.armadaproject.org/.

When I asked if any Canadian teachers had this opportunity he said that he didn’t recall a Canadian teacher going on the Arctic trips. He offered to help me come up with a proposal. Along with another Victoria teacher (Linda Hall) and the support of the technical department of the Greater Victoria School District, the proposal came to reality. We hope this will be an ongoing project to develop Arctic curriculum for teachers to use. Each year we will need to apply to the Canadian Coast Guard to travel aboard an icebreaker on their trip to the Arctic. Our dream is for this project to continue over the years. You will be able to find information about this August 2006 project, along with my daily journal, curriculum links (still being worked on), coast guard links, and a photo gallery at www.sd61.bc.ca/ctbi.

As a teacher I felt that I could enhance my teaching of a unit on communities by actually visiting a community. My students and the other Grade 2 classes at Hillcrest Elementary School will be communicating this fall with three Arctic Schools: Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik (Kugluktuk, Nunavut), Quqshuun Ilihakvik (Gjoa Haven, Nunavut), and Netsilik Ilihavik (Taloyoak, Nunavut). I spent time in each of the schools, meeting the teachers and the students. I was fortunate to spend a morning with two of the schools while the children were in attendance. Hillcrest students made dream catchers to share with the Arctic children. The children were able to start the dream catcher projects that they will send to us upon completion. This project is called The Universal Child project, initiated by the University of Victoria and Charlotte Holtan’s students at Gordon Head School in 2005.

This experience has been a wonderful way to develop and grow professionally. Not only did I have a strong sense of Canada and bringing us together but a strong sense of unity with children. Educating children is a sure way to knock down the racial prejudices and cultural misunderstandings that are prevalent in our society. In developing this program, I was building my dream as a teacher to help children respect and celebrate the differences and similarities of others. As our classes communicate over this year and many others to come, we will all grow and learn so that this mutual respect is constantly fostered.

Ellen Hardy teaches at Hillcrest Elementary School, Victoria.

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