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Community Building as Crucial to Northern Student Success in the 2016 Students on Ice Expedition - Heather E. McGregor

9:00 AM, Sunday 6 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
This presentation outlines the role of community building in supporting student engagement and success during expedition-based learning in the Students on Ice (SOI) program. It results from an evaluation research project conducted in 2016 in partnership with SOI, a non-profit educational foundation that takes youth to the Polar Regions. The research identifies aspects of SOI’s education program significantly impacting northern youth participants, most of whom are Indigenous (Inuit), in terms of: supporting personal growth, education and leadership skills, and encouraging ongoing dialogue regarding important Arctic issues. Drawing from participant observation, document analysis, small group student interviews, staff interviews, student worksheets and follow up interviews, two aspects of the program were found to be particularly meaningful: 1) a pre-program tailored specifically for northern youth before the expedition, and 2) open discussion of “truth and reconciliation” issues, including government-enforced Indigenous community relocations; youth suicide and intergenerational trauma; and, contemporary resurgence of Indigenous culture, language and traditional practices (i.e. art). These aspects were meaningful, I argue, because of the extent to which they facilitate community building among the Northern youth, and by extension, create connections with youth from elsewhere. This research contributes to sustaining and further developing educational program models that grow and nurture northern leaders, educators and advocates who can continuously participate in dialogue and action regarding Arctic challenges.