Greetings from Pond Inlet, Nunavut! We’ve been on our ship, the Ocean Endeavour, for nearly a week now and our heads, hearts and spirits are being filled by the beauty of this place and the culture of the Inuit. Our lessons have spanned from science and technology, to culture and history, to wellness and isuma (to think or ponder) and included an excellent presentation about the qajaq (kayak) and how it was traditionally made and used by the Inuit.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of seeing and doing in terms of learning. Not only is that how Inuit have passed on knowledge for thousands of years, but its how we’ve been learning about the north. In a huddle of zodiacs floating in front of Prince Leopold Island, a bird conservation area, we listened to a presentation by a migratory bird and protected areas biologist (many call him ‘the bird guy’). In Croker Bay, we climbed onto a glacier and learned about glaciers from a professor of physical geography in the field of snow and ice (you guessed it – ‘the glacier guy’). He had been to this glacier in the past and explained the differences he saw and also how the health of glaciers is measured. Some of the students remarked how, when they learned about this in a classroom, it didn’t resonate or come together in their minds like it did when you can feel the glacier underfoot and see it with your own wide eyes. We filled our water bottles right from the glacier melt and it was wonderfully crisp and refreshing. I was reminded of our own Vital Youth program, and how it offers students the opportunity to learn about community needs through doing. I am hopeful that the program makes a lasting impression on students about the importance of getting involved in the community and contributing however you can.
While the formal education program of Students on Ice is impressive, some of my greatest lessons have come through conversations with fellow staff and students as well as with people that we’ve met in our two community visits – to Resolute Bay and Pond Inlet. I’ve learned, through amazing conversations with elders, about how Inuit are given their names and what an honour it can be for a family when the name of a loved one is passed along to someone else, allowing their loved one to return. I’ve learned from students from Micronesia about the effects that they are seeing at home due to climate change and rising sea levels, and how that is connected to melting ice in the north. I’ve even written a song with the help of the legendary Ian Tamblyn, who put my lyrics to music and sang alongside me.
I’ve also been able to connect with the other members of the group that are here through Community Foundations of Canada. It’s been great to learn more about the work of their foundations and to discuss the role of community foundations with our fellow staff and students.
In terms of wildlife, I’ve seen a few polar bears, a couple of seals, and lots of birds, but I’m still keeping my binoculars ready in case a whale decides to swim by. No complaints though – this is a majestic place.
My fellow participants and I are blogging throughout the trip to share photos and stories – look for additional posts throughout this journey and upon my return. To learn more about the program, visit https://studentsonice.com/.
Jayna Brulotte is the Community Initiatives Specialist with the Victoria Foundation. Originally from northern Alberta, Jayna has resided in Victoria since 2009. Learn more about Jayna’s journey here.