Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Buggy One - Revisited

Over the last couple of weeks, a lot of people have been asking me what it was like living aboard Buggy One for a few days. No matter what I tell them about my experiences within Buggy One, words alone cannot convey what it was like.

While poking around on the web yesterday, I discovered a really interesting interactive tour of Buggy One - both inside and outside. A select few people get to experience Buggy One during the fall polar bear migration each year. If you really want to know what it was like to live and work within this confined space for a few days, click on the image below and you'll be directed to a simple tour that will bring the experience to life for you :-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

When Learning Comes To Life

Although I returned home from my Churchill experience almost a week ago, the adventure continues on a daily basis. I'm stopped several times a day by friends, family, teachers and students to share stories about my short stay along the shores of Hudson Bay.

Every time I tell a story about being aboard Buggy One, sleeping on Tundra Buggy Lodge or gazing into the eye of a polar bear, it takes me right back there. I've visited several classrooms, both physically and virtually to share my learning firsthand. I love these opportunities and am so grateful that several educators have invited me to share ideas and information with their students in this way.

I love the fact that I've been asked to directly share my learning with classrooms within my school division, throughout my city, around my province and across my country. I look forward to connecting with many more teachers and many more students around the world.

But there's one thing that makes me even happier than sharing my learning with teachers and students. It's having students share their learning with me. When I meet and talk to groups of students who have been inspired to take action on behalf of the polar bear, I think about those polar bears who I met face to face and think about how happy they would be...

That's what 'Chilling with Nanuq' will become in the days, weeks and months ahead. A space where I can share success stories from teachers and students just like you who learning about how we can help sustain our existing polar bear populations.

I love the messages that Ms. Thio's Grade 3/4 class in Winnipeg, Manitoba wrote to speak up for the polar bears - thanks for sharing :-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Save Our Home

The experiences I've had this past week in Churchill have been unbelievable. All of the many people that I've worked so closely with are amazing individuals and every single one of them has left a deep impression on me.

I plan to continue to use Chilling With Nanuq as a means of sharing my stories. But I really want to use this space to help share your stories...

How are you and your students demonstrating your learning about polar bears and the impact of global climate change on their existence? I really love the way Mrs. McKiel's Grade 1/2 Class in Winnipeg, Manitoba decorated their classroom bulletin board this week - thanks for sharing :-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rocking Buggy One

My official 'work' up here in Churchill ended today with the final 2011 Tundra Connections webcast that was powered by Edmodo. Facilitating webcasts with an audience of this magnitude has been a completely new experience for me. The feedback that I've gotten from friends & colleagues was been overwhelmingly positive, so I guess I did alright in this capacity.

In thinking about the scope and magnitude of what we've been doing aboard Buggy One this week, I'm amazed by the reach of the Tundra Connections program. While the audiences this week haven't been record-setting for Polar Bears International, they have been by far the biggest audiences for the Tundra Connections program this year.

The ability that technology affords us to connect and collaborate with different people in different places is really exemplified by this experience. We're in one of the harshest, most isolated environments the world has to offer, and the technology aboard Buggy One gives us opportunities that could not have existed a mere decade ago.

Hundreds of classrooms connected to our webcasts each day. In all likelihood, each of these three webcasts were viewed live by approximately 10,000 students from around the world. Not only did these classrooms connect with us, they also connected with each other through the Edmodo PBI Community by asking questions and sharing their experiences with other participants. And the best part is that these webcasts have all been archived, so that they can be continue to support learning in classrooms around the globe.

It's hard to know what's happening on the other end of the camera when you're streaming content out over the web. But what really hit home for me was some of the immediate feedback from teachers that were watching these webcasts and sharing the learning that was taking place within their own classrooms in real-time. Like Leslie Dent-Scarcello, who teaches a Grade 5 class in Bird's Hill, Manitoba. Within minutes of today's 'Polar Detectives' webcast wrapping up, Leslie shared this example of the authentic learning that was taking place in her classroom during the 'Polar Detectives' webcast - AWESOME!

Thanks, Brooke, for sharing your work with us :-)

You can find archives of all three webcasts from this week on the 'Video' page of this blog. And just because my adventure in Churchill is almost over, doesn't mean this blog has to come to an end. I still have so many more photos to share, stories to tell & messages to convey from my week spent rocking Buggy One along with all the other panelists.

If you've been following along with my big adventure this week, how has this experience translated into deeper learning for you and your students?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If Polar Bears Could Talk

As I sat down this morning in Tundra Buggy Lodge over a bowl of oatmeal, I looked out the window and saw a polar bear casually strolling toward the window. She looked at me and I looked at her and the moment our eyes met, I felt as though she was pleading with me to help her. If polar bears could talk, what would they say?

But then I got distracted by movement over her shoulder and I saw another polar bear ambling along in the snow. Then another bear, and another. Within five minutes I counted seven polar bears! Not a bad way to enjoy a bowl of outmeal. I could have sat watching the bears from the comfort of Tundra Buggy Lodge all day, if it weren't for the five connections with the outside world that Buggy One was committed to delivering throughout the day :-)

I sat on a panel that conducted a video conference with a school in North Carolina and had a great time fielding questions from a large group of Grade 3/4 students. My favourite question was "Have you seen any tracks from the 'abdominal snowman'?". Just for the record, no, we have not...

Today's Tundra Connections webcast was focused on "Nanuq: The Great White Bear" and it was great. The many questions that were submitted by teachers and students made for a rich conversation and it was very comforting for me, as the facilitator, to see several familiar names and faces (okay, profile pics...) dropping questions within the Edmodo PBI Community.

I got to sit back and watch the two afternoon webcasts - one with University of Chapel Hill and a webcast on marine biology that attracted over 100 participants and covered some critical issues related to global climate change. There sure is a lot less pressure when you're off camera for these conversations!

Before heading back to Tundra Buggy Lodge at dusk (4:00pm), Buggy One had to connect with The Weather Channel for an interview spot. Kassie Siegel (Centre for Biological Diversity) went on camera to talk about the impact climate change is having on the polar bear population in this region. Cool to see these kinds of things play out before your eyes. There are so many steps that we can all take to educate the general public about the dire reality our planet is currently facing. Loved the parting words from The Weather Channel - "I hope the lake freezes soon" ;-)

With all the activity aboard Buggy One today, we sure didn't have much time for bear watching, so I'll share a few more pics from yesterday.

So, if polar bears could talk, what would they say? Think about it.
But we all know that polar bears can't talk, so we need to speak and act on their behalf.
What will you do or say to help the polar bears?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inside & Outside Buggy One

What an incredible day aboard Buggy One! We hosted a video conference with about 100 students from York University (Toronto) and the first Polar Bears International Tundra Connections webcast that was 'powered by Edmodo' which saw participation from over 600 classrooms around the world.

When you consider the fact that each one of these 600 'connections' had an average of 20 viewers, we likely had over 10,ooo participants in today's webcast - wow!!! I just hope that most of the teachers and students who participated in this webcast left feeling inspired to do something about reducing their carbon footprint and protect this amazing ecosystem :-)

Prior to the connections we made around the world today, we had some amazing bear viewing right outside the windows of Buggy One. Here are just a few of the photos that I captured this morning... enjoy :-)

The Terrific Tundra

Just to give you a better sense of where we are, check out the image below. If you click on this image, you'll link to a Google Map showing our current location. After exploring our surroundings, you may want to find your way from where we are to where you are :-)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rolling on the Tundra

Another fantastic day in the Churchill area. After the Tundra Connections panelists did some interviews and a bit of a media blitz, we congregated at 'Launch' - the place where all of the Tundra Buggy vehicles are parked a few kilometres to the east of town. After loading up Buggy One with all of our gear, we wound our way slowly along the tundra toward Tundra Buggy Lodge.

The first thing I noticed was that there were bear tracks - everywhere. Even along the Tundra Buggy tracks there were polar bears tracks.

We saw as many polar bears as we saw Tundra Buggy's - which was quite a few. But we weren't trying to get up close and personal with the bears. We kept our distance and simply observed their actions from afar.

We spent a couple hours sitting at 'halfway point' along the Hudson Bay shoreline - note the complete absence of sea ice.

Base camp contacted us on the radio and said that they wanted us to hang tight so that Henry (PBI's videographer, who was on Buggy One with us) could be airlifted out. Manitoba Conservation had discovered a dead polar bear and were taking Dr. Steven Amstrup (who I met last night) out by helicopter to collect some samples. We got another call about an hour later letting us know that the plans had changed so we pushed on...

The sun sure does sink early in these parts. We saw this bear going for a mid-afternoon stroll in the dying light of the day.

Not only did we see a bunch of polar bears, but we also saw a bunch of other animals out here on the tundra. An arctic hare, a red fox and a whole bunch of ptarmigan.

As the light was going out of the day (about 4pm) we made our final approach to Tundra Buggy Lodge where we'll be staying for the next few nights.

Days aboard Buggy One and nights aboard Tundra Buggy Lodge - I could get used to this :-)

For the next three days we'll be conducting a broad assortment of video conferences and webcasts aboard Buggy One. I'm really looking forward to helping facilitate the Tundra Connections webcasts this week as a representative of Edmodo. Those of you that are following the blog are more than welcome to post your questions here as comments...

Thanks for reading ;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Magical Moments

My first day in Churchill has been filled with so many incredible experiences that I don't even know how to start relating all of them. So many notable and memorable things have occurred already, and we haven't even headed out on Buggy One yet!

Of course, one of my highlights has to revolve around the mighty polar bear. I saw my first polar bears 'in the wild' today, but not the way I wanted to see them. The polar bears are gathering along the shore of Hudson Bay awaiting the arrival of the sea ice, where they'll spend the winter months hunting seals.

Unfortunately, freeze-up hasn't even begun yet this year, which is a real cause for concern! The ice is forming later in the fall and melting faster in the spring, which is having a real impact on polar bear populations. As the bears wait for the ice to form, they're forced to eat anything they can scrounge up. We stumbled upon about a dozen polar bears that have discovered piles of fermenting grain that they've turned to for sustenance.

Another highlight of my first day here was finding out more about D20, otherwise known as 'The Polar Bear Jail'. This facility has the capacity to accommodate up to 28 polar bears in holding cells until they can be safely released onto the sea ice. Polar bears that become 'problematic' within the town of Churchill can either be airlifted to D20 or captured in the bear traps you see below and transferred to the jail, where they typically spend at least 30 days before being set free.

I have learned so much throughout the day by spending time with so many people who are very knowledgeable about this unique location. They drove me around, walked along with me & made sure that I saw all of the essential sights within the town of Churchill, including the Eskimo Museum - what a collection of Inuit artifacts and artwork!

But the best part of my day has been getting to know all of the people who I'm sharing this adventure with - I feel so fortunate to be working alongside such a dedicated team for the next several days! Everyone involved with Polar Bears International is fantastic, and they've all been so warm & welcoming. From the accommodations they're providing us with to the dinner and presentation that they hosted tonight for Manitoba Conservation officials, they know how to take care of business by balancing it with the perfect mix of purpose and pleasure :-)

Time to turn the lights out on Day 1, as we climb aboard Buggy One tomorrow morning for the next phase of this adventure...

Don't forget to visit the 'Photos' page for a few more magical moments that were captured today :-)

Made it to Churchill

Churchill Airport by amckiel, on Flickr

We landed in Churchill about an hour ago and it took no time at all for me to see my first polar bear. But, unfortunately, the bear that we saw was suspended high up in the air from a helicopter. He was on his way to Polar Bear Jail - I suspect to got a little too close to somewhere he shouldn't have been.

The relationship between humans and animals (in this case, polar bears) is dicey at best. This is polar bear country - that's Churchill's claim to fame!

As soon as we arrived in the airport, we were greeted by Sarah and Amy from Polar Bears International. They mentioned a sad experience that they had last night - seeing about eight large male bears eating old, fermented grains near the old dump.

So, the thing I'm already struggling with is whether the bears are getting in our way or whether we're getting in the way of the bears...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reality Sets In...

I had a terrific time hanging out with Don Moore this afternoon - spending a couple of hours getting to know such a storied scholar and gentleman was exactly what I needed to get in the right head space for embarking on a trip to Churchill in the morning.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this will be Don's 11th trip to Churchill, so he knows exactly what to expect upon our arrival tomorrow morning. I know we're in for a busy week, but chatting with Don about his past experiences aboard Buggy One and Tundra Buggy Lodge confirmed what I was hoping - there's still plenty of opportunity to shoot lots of pics and soak in every aspect of the experience along the way :-)

Don Moore & The Nonsuch

What a treat to accompany someone like Don on a tour of the Manitoba Museum. I've visited these exhibits at least a dozen times, but it was like I was seeing everything through a new set of eyes. I soaked up every display as if it were the first time. I have a new appreciation for display boxes, diorama installations and use of space within each exhibit. I now have a much better appreciation of all the things the Manitoba Museum does so well, and a better perspective on how they could give some of their exhibits a bit of an overhaul...

After touring the Museum for a couple hours, I took Don on a bit of a tour of some aspects of Winnipeg I thought he might appreciate. Not only did he see the foundations being put in place for our Canadian Museum For Human Rights, but he also saw our two white bison at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Thanks for hanging out with me for a couple hours today, Don - can't wait to learn more from you throughout the next week :-)

One More Sleep

I climb aboard the plane to Churchill in less than 24 hours and there is still a lot to do before I embark on this journey. With each passing day, I've grown more excited about the prospect of travelling to the tundra, and the reality is starting to set in that this is really happening :-)

After tying up a bunch of loose ends at work yesterday, I joined a number of the panelists for next week's Tundra Connections webinars for a brief teleconference. Hearing a little more about each of these scientists, researchers and polar bear advocates helped me to realize just what a big deal this is. These are some of the world's leading experts on polar bears and the impact that global climate change is having on their existence along the southern shore of Hudson Bay.

In between packing, planning & preparing today, I will have a very unique opportunity this afternoon to take Don Moore to the Manitoba Museum. Don has dedicated over 30 years to the study of polar bears and this will be his 11th time travelling to Churchill. Don will be one of the panelists for next week's Tundra Connections webinars.

I'm looking forward to getting to know Don a little better this afternoon and hearing some of his many tales of polar bear encounters. I learned yesterday that Don spent some time working with Gus, the polar bear from Central Park. I'm already familiar with the story of Gus, but I can't wait the find out more details through conversations with Don Moore this afternoon! If you don't know about Gus, you'll want to do a little digging on Google ;-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Home Away From Home

Only a few more sleeps until I board the plane to Churchill and really begin this Arctic adventure. Last night I watched this short video that gives a 'behind the scenes' look at Tundra Buggy One, the vehicle that I'll be aboard through most of my days at Cape Churchill...

Seeing the footage of what happens aboard Tundra Buggy One and just outside of this amazing vehicle got me even more excited about setting out on this journey in a few short days!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Big Adventure

In exactly one week, I'll be aboard a flight to Churchill, Manitoba to spend a week studying polar bears and their habitat. I can't wait to work along with Edmodo, Polar Bears International and a team of scientists from around the world to share the fall polar bear migration with the rest of the world!

I'll be using this space to provide regular updates about what we're seeing outside the windows of Tundra Buggy One. This is the same vehicle that broadcasts the live Polar Bear Cam, so we're sure to see plenty of polar bears and other Arctic animals in the natural habitat.

As I capture my own images from aboard Tundra Buggy One, I'll be including them in a photo slideshow that you will find on the 'Photos' page of this site.

I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you and your students to follow along with my polar bear adventures as they're unfolding. I would encourage you to leave behind your own questions and comments so that I can provide you with the facts and information that you and your students are hoping to take away from this experience.

I hope you'll enjoy 'Chilling with Nanuq' :-)