2017 Students On Ice Arctic Expedition is changing perceptions

Stepping out onto the tundra in the high Arctic, Shiloh immediately felt connected to the environment in a way she never experienced before. She describes it as all of her senses becoming engaged when the rich scent of the raw earth embraced her fully.

“Experiencing the earth in that way created a different type of connection and motivation to preserve the environment,” says Shiloh, an alumna of the Power To Be Wilderness School. “Not only for me, but for all involved in the expedition.”

Photo credit: Mike Sudoma Students On Ice Foundation

She was one of 120 high school and university students on the 2017 Students On Ice expedition this August. Inspiring personal growth through global exploration opportunities, Students On Ice allows those taking part to gain invaluable knowledge about the effects of the changing state of the global climate while fostering a deeper understanding of self and community during the 15-day arctic expedition. The group included two Power To Be Wilderness School alumni and two staff members.

Photo credit: Martin Lipman Students On Ice Foundation

Participants of the expedition gained knowledge about the importance of creating a healthy, sustainable future, while being immersed directly into the ever-changing climate. Seeing the direct impact of climate change on the communities surviving there causes a ripple effect out into their own communities as they feel the desire to share their new-found knowledge and experiences.

“I think it’s important to understand how much there is to learn. I gained so much knowledge environmentally. You’re really not able to get that traditionally from school and education alone,” Shiloh says. “It’s a feeling, experiencing it first-hand really impacted me on a whole new level. I find my conversations now revolve around the knowledge I’ve gained.

“Experiencing the earth in that way created a different type of connection and motivation to preserve the environment.” - Participant

The expedition focused on students gaining first-hand experiences visiting Arctic communities. They started in Ottawa before travelling via plane and ship through Resolute Bay, Davis Strait, and along the Western coast of Greenland and to Kangerlussaq. The expedition revolved around the immersive experiences of engaging and learning from the people within the communities, outdoor workshops on survival in the Arctic as well as cultural and traditional experiences such as seal skinning.

Clay Webb, Power To Be Curriculum Coordinator, was most impacted by the strong sense of culture that surrounded him. “Seeing Northern youth being so proud of their culture, performing traditional seal skinning, and seeing how inspired they were to be creative, it left me feeling connected too,” Clay says. “It reminded us all of how important it is to celebrate the culture that surrounds us.”

It’s a sentiment that Breyn, Power To Be Wilderness school alumnus shares.

“Having the experience of eating narwhal was such a huge moment,” Breyn says. “Knowing that for many of the northern youth having narwhal on the table is a common occurrence and being able to share in that experience, while sharing and listening to their stories, it was truly an incredible moment.

Photo credit: Mike Sudoma Students On Ice Foundation

These connections had within the arctic communities, celebrating indigenous culture, history and heritage gave new perspectives on connecting with culture for Shiloh too.

“I did not expect to walk away from this trip with a deep desire to reconnect with my own culture,” she says. “Being First Nations in B.C. was something I felt I struggled with, and now, I truly feel the desire to reconnect with spiritual and cultural practices, gaining a strong connection with my culture.”

With a deeper understanding of the effects of climate change through the experiences had in the Arctic communities, Breyn expressed that it is hard to take action when you really don’t know or understand what is happening environmentally.

“I think it’s important that people understand why it matters to become environmentally charged and aware,” he says. “It’s not just about protecting the wildlife. There is a whole culture involved and these communities depend on the climate for their food and survival.”

Photo credit: Mike Sudoma Students On Ice Foundation

On behalf of Power To Be, thank you to everyone involved in the success of the 2017 Students On Ice expedition. We are grateful to be recipients of scholarships to participate in the expedition. This partnership allows us to continue to share in encouraging environmental education while ensuring that nature is made accessible to those living with disabilities or barriers to the outdoors.

Watch the 2017 Expedition Video



Photo credits for gallery images (in order): Martin Lipman Students On Ice Foundation, Martin Lipman Students On Ice Foundation, Mike Sudoma Students On Ice Foundation, Mike Sudoma Students On Ice Foundation, Clay Webb Power To Be, Martin Lipman Students On Ice Foundation, Mike Sudoma Students On Ice Foundation