A group of students from Newfoundland and Labrador is having the experience of a lifetime this summer, not in the sunshine, but in the cold winds of the Arctic.
The Students on Ice program offers educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica to high school students around the world. On July 9, 86 teenagers, eight of them from Newfoundland and Labrador, began a two-week expedition through the eastern Canadian Arctic and western Greenland.
“Every day is full of surprises. I’m looking forward to every day,” said Christopher Qiu, a 15-year-old student from Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s.
Throughout the journey, the students travel by boat, learning about the history, culture and ecology of the Arctic by visiting communities, exploring the Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador, encountering Arctic wildlife, going on Zodiac excursions, and attending workshops and lectures.
The Telegram caught up with two students from St. John’s via satellite phone as they were crossing the Davis Strait en route to Greenland.
“Right now we’re out in the open water so it’s really cold, but once we get out to Greenland we’ll have a high of five degrees,” laughed Kaitlyn Little, a 17-year-old Holy Heart student.
Little won a scholarship for the program through the provincial Research and Development Corp.
“But it’s beautiful. It’s rainy and it’s windy, but the seas are actually pretty calm right now.”
“The biggest thing I’m learning is different cultures,” said Qiu. “On the ship we have a wide amount of students from the Arctic and Greenland. It gives me a chance to learn about their culture, their traditions and their opinions on the Arctic.”
“I’m more of a science person, but I hadn’t really had a chance before to experience Inuit culture, so it’s pretty interesting. I like it,” agreed Little. “I’m always up for new experiences and learning new things.”
For the first time this year, two singer-songwriters — Kathleen Edwards and Ian Tamblyn — are joining the expedition to lead workshops on musical expression and the music industry.
“A big part of the Arctic is the culture, and what they mostly focus on in the workshop is how to discover that culture through experiences with the land and the people,” said Little.
“And then they translate their messages into songwriting.”
The program is led by 45 educators, scientists, artists, Inuit leaders and polar experts.
Students on Ice is in its 14th year. This winter, the program is offering an expedition to Antarctica for high school, undergraduate and graduate students.