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An Internet Field Trip: Exploring the Arctic by Dogsled

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia
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We're hearing a lot about the Arctic region these days. From proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to alarming warnings from climate scientists that Arctic ice is melting, the far northern latitudes are capturing news headlines.

How can students and teachers learn the realities of climate change as well as participate in the dialogue about the choices and their impacts?

By joining this scientific exploration of the ANWR, you'll be able to meet many curricular standards and introduce your students to one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. Completely free of charge and appropriate for students in grades K-12, GoNorth! offers lots of interactive features, including free curricula, video segments, and forums. You'll even be able to chat online with the expedition team.

The international team of men and women are crossing the Alaskan Arctic by dogsled on their 700-mile, two-month transect. You can sign your class up anytime during the expedition, but I advise you to do so now to take advantage of the full scope and sequence of this virtual journey. The research-based curriculum is very versatile, and there is a detailed schedule so you'll be able to join the expedition midstream.

And, it doesn't hurt that the sled dogs are so cute!

Read another article on the GoNorth! program, "Snow Days: Technology Brings the Arctic Wilderness Up Close."

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Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

Comments (8) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Karen Israel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It is great to see such innovative curriculum being developed. If I taught computers, I would definitely use this very innovative curriculum of exploring the artic by dogsled. I look forward to hearing from you about more interesting ideas! And the dogs are verycute!!!!
Karen Israel
M.Ed. Computer Science

Barrie Jo Price's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This message is somewhat related to this article, I guess. I was impressed with the use of technology to expand the impact of this event. I connected it in my mind with a project we are planning for next year. We will connect 3 schools (Italy, USA - Alabama, and Surabaya) for an asynchronous environmental awareness summmit that concludes with a synchronous event in which all 3 schools participate. We want to feature online resources ('speakers', papers, etc) and then use MOODLE for the actual summit. Anyone done this and have tips for us?

Milton Chen, GLEF's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Nice photos and a great website. Are there some outcomes of this kind of virtual field trip that have been reported?

Fred Ankersen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This reminds me of the series ofQuests that ClassroomConnect published a few years ago. These are marvelous ways to involve students in authentic learning.

Diane Demée-Benoit's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dr. Aaron Doering, Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota, is a member of the GoNorth! Team. He is doing groundbreaking research on how these kinds of "exploration-based" experiences engage and challenge learners. Aaron calls this approach "adventure learning," and he's published a number of papers on the subject. You can find his papers on the GoNorth! web site, or email Aaron at

In my mind, the primary features of good projects and programs are that they are related to standards and have multiple forms of assessment throughout the project. While there is a paucity of research on how project-based learning leads to higher student achievement, there are a few studies within the environmental education community that may be of interest:

The North American Association for Environmental Education has a number of publications.

The State Education and Environment Roundtable web site lists several reports.

Dr. Sylvia Chard's web site on project-based learning has foundational materials and information:

Let us know if you know of other research or reports.

Dr. Bruce Spitzer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Virtual field trips are excellent tools! Broadband/high speed access coupled with an in-room computer and projecter present a myriad of opportunities for teachers whose budgets are strapped and field trips cancelled.

I'd like to comment upon Ms. Israel's remarks of March 16, though.

It should not be left to the "computer teacher" to utilize computing technology (and virtual field trips, in this case) in the classroom. As a teacher-educator whose work focuses on technology, I often tell my teacher candidates that "computer teachers teaching computers is akin to pencil teachers teaching pencils".

There must be a paradigm shift away from one teacher in the building responsible for teaching 'the computer' as a class to a new way of thinking in which all teachers in the building are using computers and related technologies as tools for accomplishing marvelous things in classrooms.

A computer is simply a tool, just as a pencil is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less.

In this case, the GoNorth! curriculum can (and should) be used across every subject area from math and science to language arts and social studies. It just takes some imagination and creative thinking.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My friend Sara Armstong and her husband actually went to Alaska and tell stories about the Iditarod. I love this project . This tool, this way of shrinking the world for understanding. Thank you for the link to a project that can be used by teachers anywhere..

Sheila Bishop's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a student teacher working on a unit I designed named appropiately; "Animal Welfare: A study of the Canine". I am thrilled to have access to such a high caliber adventure such as 'Go North'. I'm looking forward to involving my students initially on how the canine has helped humans evolve and presently how they are continuing to help us in so many new and inovative ways - I'm sure they'll enjoy the trip as much I will. Thanks! Sheila Bishop- Central Valley, CA

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