An exciting year is coming for BIOSPHERE Environmental Education

Copyright Shelley L. Ball

Copyright Shelley L. Ball

Hello Everyone!

It’s been a long, long time since I last posted on our blog. I’m amazed at how life seems to drive us in a different direction, at least temporarily, sometimes. The past year has been a challenge for me (Shelley). I returned from the amazing arctic expedition I was on last July. It was a phenomenal experience. I began to post about my adventures when my Dad became very ill. Hence, I wasn’t able to finish posting about our expedition. Sadly, in September, my Dad passed away. I spent the winter settling his estate, which was a massive amount a work and stress. And then, in spring, my husband of 10 years and I, divorced. We’re still friends, which is great. It’s been a challenging year to say the least.

But as we learn from life, challenges make you stronger. Challenges are part of any adventure, any expedition. They test your mettle. They push you to your limits, physically, psychologically, emotionally. But when you come out the other side of the adventure, you come out stronger, more resilient, and having learned something from your experiences. Certainly, this is true for me and the kind of year I’ve had.

I’ve really missed posting here on the BIOSPHERE blog and it’s been hard to have to put BIOSPHERE on hold for a while. But I’m back and raring to go.

The necessary hiatus I’ve had to take from BIOSPHERE makes my return all the sweeter and not the least because of all the exciting things unfolding. I’ll be posting about these in upcoming blog posts, but here’s a snapshot of what’s to come….

In December of 2016, I’m headed to Antarctica! I’ll be headed there with 77 other women scientists from around the world on a women-in-science leadership expedition. I can’t wait to tell you about it. So look for info on this here on the blog in the next few days.

May 2015 – was when our Arctic Impressions photography exhibit was installed in the largest art gallery of the Ottawa International Airport. The images are from last summer’s arctic expedition. But they are not my images. They are the images of the students on the expedition. I taught a photography workshop on the expedition and then issued the challenge to students to make great photos because the best of the best would be exhibited at Ottawa Airport. And they were! I’ll post more about that soon, but I’m in the process of getting the images online at our BIOSPHERE Environmental Education website. I’m also working on finding another venue for the exhibit in the hopes of turning it into a travelling exhibit. Stay tuned for more on this in the next few days.

2017 – there’s still a LOT to plan and this is fairly tentative, but I’m aiming for 2017 to be the very first of BIOSPHERE Environmental Education’s Environmental Learning Expeditions! This will be the full roll-out of the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Programme. I’m so excited! There’s a ton to do to even get to the point of formally announcing the expedition and getting the advertisement out there to students. But I’m determined to get it going. So stay tuned for more on this in upcoming blog posts.

I hope you’ll tune into our blog regularly for our exciting news. And feel free to pass the link to our blog and website on to others you think might enjoy it.

All the best,

Shelley

Founder & CEO of BIOSPHERE Environmental Education

www.biosphere-ed.org

Arctic Expedition 2014 – the story of our adventure…sailing from Kuujjuaq

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On July 12th, Day 4 of our adventure, we woke super early, gathered up all of our gear and headed for the school buses, which took us to the Ottawa International Airport. There we loaded our mountain of gear and hoped that we weren’t about to overpack our First Air charter flight. It’s happened on previous expeditions, apparently. Sucks to be on the tarmac, scratching your forehead and wondering what to leave behind because the plane just can’t handle the weight of all of it. In the end, it was beer bottles that were left behind. But that’s another story that I’ll tell a little later. And it does have a happy ending.

The excitement over the start of the northern part of our adventure was palpable, despite the early hour of the morning

The excitement over the start of the northern part of our adventure was palpable, despite the early hour of the morning

 

Our charter flight was headed to Kuujjuaq, a remote community on Ungava Bay, in northern Quebec. Our ship would be waiting for us in the bay. And we were so anxious to get on board and begin the expedition component of our adventure together. Our flight time from Ottawa to Kuujjuaq was about two hours.

Boarding a flight from Ottawa to Kuujjuaq in the early morning. The air was buzzing with excitement.

Boarding a flight from Ottawa to Kuujjuaq in the early morning. The air was buzzing with excitement.

Welcome to Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec. Population ~ 2,400.

Welcome to Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec. Population ~ 2,400.

We arrived to overcast skies, much cooler temperatures than we’d had in Ottawa, and an incredible landscape. We walked about a mile from the airport to the town’s community centre and then had a walk around town, headed down to the beach and then back to the community centre for a BBQ that the town had put on for us. Youth from our expedition connected with local youth and soon, friendly challenges of Inuit games and rapping and beatbox were being exchanged.

The village of Kuujjuaq, home to some of the students on our SOI expedition.

The village of Kuujjuaq, home to some of the students on our SOI expedition.

 

Stretching our legs on the beach and enjoying the fresh, cool air.

Stretching our legs on the beach and enjoying the fresh, cool air.

After a few hours in town it was time to head for our ship, the Sea Adventurer. She had come upriver a bit and anchored, waiting for our arrival. But we still had about a 30 minute zodiac ride to get to her. Exciting! Our first ride in the zodiacs! As we sped down river, the wind in our hair and the northern sun on our faces, the rhythmic bouncing of the zodiac on the waves, we soaked up the scenery as we went.

The shoreline as we headed downstream, from Kuujjuaq, towards the Sea Adventurer, our floating home for the next 12 days.

The shoreline as we headed downstream, from Kuujjuaq, towards the Sea Adventurer, our floating home for the next 12 days.

The landscape around Kuujjuaq and along the river is rugged. Kuujjuaq is located just at the edge of the boreal forest treelike. So you see some trees to the south, but they are small spruces. And the treelike quickly disappears as you head north. The shoreline is rocky and rugged. Looking out onto the massive pieces of rock, one expected to see a polar bear lumbering across the landscape.

The rocky and rugged shoreline near Kuujjuaq

The rocky and rugged shoreline near Kuujjuaq

The crevices in this ancient rock creates its own version of art

The crevices in this ancient rock creates its own version of art

Leaving the tree line behind us, the ruggedness of the landscape seemed more apparent

Leaving the tree line behind us, the ruggedness of the landscape seemed more apparent

As we made our way down river in the zodiacs, everyone was pretty quiet. Talking above the sound of the outboard motor was difficult. But part of the silence was that we were all just taking in our surroundings. For many on the expedition, this was the farthest north they had ever been. The magnitude and magnificence of the landscape was something many had not experienced before and none of us could help but just look and watch as we sped along.

Our first zodiac ride of the expedition. One of many, but in some ways, the most exciting as we had no idea what adventures awaited us.

Our first zodiac ride of the expedition. One of many, but in some ways, the most exciting as we had no idea what adventures awaited us.

As we headed down river towards our ship, we began to notice camps dotted across the landscape. One of our northern students said that families were out on the land now, hunting and camping.

Temporary camps along the river

Camps along the river

Many of these temporary camps consist of canvas tents

Many of these are temporary camps with canvas tents

 

As we sped downriver, the outline of our ship came into view. And as we got closer, it’s size and magnificence became apparent. It was hard to believe this would be home for the next 11 days! There was definitely a palpable excitement in the air as the zodiacs circled, waiting their turn to tie up to the ship’s platform and step aboard.

Arriving at our new  floating home, the Sea Adventurer

Arriving at our new floating home, the Sea Adventurer

The Sea Adventurer, is a 100 m long ship with an A-1 ice class rating. So technically, it’s not an icebreaker, but its reinforced hull can find its way through plenty of  ‘bergy bits’ that often litter the waters of the northern Labrador coastline in July.

Total excitement as we are greeted by those already on the Sea Adventurer

Total excitement as we are greeted by those already on the Sea Adventurer

Welcome aboard!

Welcome aboard!

The Sea Adventurer, with 10 zodiacs that allowed us to get to shore to explore

The Sea Adventurer, with 10 zodiacs that allowed us to get to shore to explore

The Sea Adventurer staff had already kindly installed all of our luggage in our cabins by the time we arrived. Our cabins were tidy, modern and comfortable. Sure, they’re small, but we were just there to sleep (and as we’d find out, grab whatever rare nap-time could be stolen during our busy days).

Our two person cabin. Very comfortable and a great sized window for iceberg watching.

Our two person cabin. Very comfortable and a great sized window for iceberg watching.

I remember on Day 1 of our adventure, during our introduction, Geoff Green was describing the Sea Adventurer. His comment was that this ship is far, far too nice for us on us. Ya, sure. 😉 It wasn’t until I began to explore around the ship and came upon the dinning room that I understood what Geoff meant. Just peeking into the dinning room, I felt as if I should have brought my evening gown on this arctic expedition! Note to self for next time – don’t just pack the rubber boots and blackfly jacket, include evening wear as well. 😉

Our ship's dinning room - not what I expected on an arctic expedition, but hey, I'm not complaining! ;)

Our ship’s dinning room – not what I expected on an arctic expedition, but hey, I’m not complaining! 😉

But it gets better. Not only is the dinning room fancy-schmancy, but all of the serving staff were wearing tuxes. And they were the most incredibly friendly people. By the end of the expedition, we’d all become friends. And… we certainly didn’t starve during our expedition. How could one starve while eating 5-course meals for dinner, for 12 days? Seriously! They fed us 5 course meals for dinner! Breakfast and lunch were buffets. And all I can say is that the food was phenomenal! I normally don’t eat dessert, but I did for these 12 days! Although I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the delicate pastry that was shaped like a swan. Seriously, it was ‘pastry origami’! Talk about roughing it on our arctic expedition. 😉

I didn't think you'd believe me about the 5 course meals, so here's the menu from lunch

I didn’t think you’d believe me about the 5 course meals, so here’s the menu from lunch

And…. the menu from dinner one night… some evenings we ate fresh arctic char that members of our expedition had caught that day.

And dinner. Oh... how we suffered! ;)

And dinner. Oh… how we suffered! 😉

Here's more of how we suffered. Dessert one night. I think it was a blueberry cheesecake, but I can't remember because my head is still swirling with delight. Oh so many desserts...

Here’s more of how we suffered. Dessert one night. I think it was a blueberry cheesecake, but I can’t remember because my head is still swirling with delight. Oh so many desserts…

After dinner, I wandered up on deck with my camera, soaking in the fresh evening air as we made our way through Ungava Bay. The land disappeared and the open water lay before us. As the sun began to sink in the sky, many of us took some time on deck to jus have some quiet time to ourselves, to reflect on all that had happened up to this point and what our next 11 days would be like.

Time to reflect as we leave head out of Ungava Bay

Time to reflect as we leave head out of Ungava Bay

Watching land disappear...

Watching land disappear…

And the sun sink low in the sky. It never got completely dark because we were so far north. But we were treated to some of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen.

And the sun sink low in the sky. It never got completely dark because we were so far north. But we were treated to some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

This is how our days ended. Falling into bed, tired from the days activities. But what more could you ask for... arriving in your cabin to find your bed turned down and a mint sitting there.

This is how our days ended. Falling into bed, tired from the days activities. But what more could you ask for… arriving in your cabin to find your bed turned down and a mint sitting there.

Our floating home, the Sea Adventurer, was INCREDIBLE. All of the staff were more than outstanding. So friendly, courteous, the food was out of this world. The cabins so comfortable. We all complained when we got home that our beds at home seemed not to be nearly so comfortable as those on the ship. Our captain was phenomenal. You’ll hear more about him later and how he’s given us the adventure of a lifetime.

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Tune in  next time for the first BIG day of our adventure, exploring the beauty of the Labrador coastline…

Arctic Expedition 2014 – the story of our adventure… part II

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What’s one way to get 100+ people who are total strangers to bond really quickly? Answer: FEAR. I’m kidding…. but doing something that forces everyone outside their comfort zone and puts everyone on an equal playing field is a great way to create bonds between people. And so that’s what we did on Day 3. Well, that’s what most of them did. I declined due to a back injury I didn’t want to aggravate. I was having premonitions of being in a body cast as we boarded our ship for the arctic. NOT the way to see the north…. from a porthole window and a body-cast. Hence, I acted as motivational coach, keeper of the sunglasses, iPhones, cameras, hats and hoodies and cat-herder. 🙂

"So, what are we supposed to do with these thingies again?" "I think we hook ourselves to the structures so we don't fall to our death". "Oh, really?"

“So, what are we supposed to do with these thingies again?” “I think we hook ourselves to the structures so we don’t fall to our death”. “Oh, really?”

Day 3 has us head to the Aerial Park and Zip-line at Camp Fortune not far from Gatineau, Quebec. I was intrigued by this activity. A way to get the students to burn off some of their nervous energy. They had already begun to bond with each other, but by the end of the zip-lining, bonds were far more cemented. The glue that bound them? Fear of death? Well, not quite. But there’s nothing like experiencing uncertainty, fear, and questioning one’s abilities to bond people. The students were great. They embraced the ropes course with gusto. They encouraged each other. Coached each other. They didn’t need me. OK, well I was keeper of all their stuff that would fall off while they were on the course. And sure, I did encourage them all. But they were superstars!

Some tentative initial steps...

Some tentative initial steps…

But after a few minutes, the students were attacking the course...

But after a few minutes, the students were attacking the course…

I watched these young adults confront their fear of heights. Sure, there were nervous moments, but every one of them stretched outside their comfort zone to embrace the challenge. They climbed ladders, traversed rope ‘bridges’, swung their way across gaps between trees on swinging ‘steps’, zip-lined at top speed from tree to tree. And at the end of it, the only thing I saw were smiles and high fives. Awesome! Just awesome!

Combating fears of heights...

Combating fears of heights…

Using muscles that hadn't been used in a while...

Using muscles that hadn’t been used in a while…

And looking like pros from a swat team… :)

And looking like pros from a swat team… 🙂

 

Our next stop for the day was back at the Canadian Museum of Nature, but this time, to see its public side. We had a guided tour of the museum and were treated to exhibits that showed us the many of the animals that call Canada home, some of which we may see on our arctic adventure. Our tour ended with a wander through the dinosaur section. Not the fossils, but huge replicas of various dinosaur species which once roamed the earth.

Students look into a diorama of muskox in the high arctic.

Students look into a diorama of muskox in the high arctic.

I'm not sure if these were to scale, but some of them were certainly scary enough! Can't imagine meeting one of these grumpy beasts millions of years ago...

I’m not sure if these were to scale, but some of them were certainly scary enough! Can’t imagine meeting one of these grumpy beasts millions of years ago…

That evening, tired, sore, and happy students filed into one of the lecture halls at Carleton U for more inspiring presentations – by Mary Simon ( a prominent Canadian who played an important role in the creation of the 8-country Arctic Council), Trevor Taylor (former Fisheries Minister for Newfoundland) and Donovan Taplin, an impressive young SOI alum who at the age of 19, was elected to his town’s municipal government. Donovan’s presentation was nothing short of phenomenally inspirational -for me! I wonder what the students thought of it because it blew my socks off.

 

Although zip-lining through the Gatineaus seems a far stretch from an arctic expedition, it was anything but. Team building, building confidence, forcing people outside their comfort zone – all great things to prepare us for the next 12 days of adventure….

Tune in to the next blog post for the start of our northern adventure – flying up to Kuujjuaq and boarding our ship, the Sea Adventurer…

 

[All images on this blog post are copyright Shelley L. Ball. All rights reserved]

Arctic Expedition 2014 – the story of our adventure…part I

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The beauty of the north... photo © Shelley L. Ball

The beauty of the north…
photo © Shelley L. Ball

So finally, I have enough of my 11,000+ photos organized that I can begin to tell my story of our arctic expedition. If you’ve been following  this blog, you’ll know that last January I created this blog – the Biosphere Blog – to be able to share my passion for environmental education and especially youth education. I had just created my own environmental education organization – Biosphere Environmental Education – something that has been a dream that has been a long time in the making. I wanted the focus of my organization to be educating youth about the environment, connecting them with nature, and encouraging and inspiring them to appreciate it, understand its value, and to become youth ambassadors for the environment, sharing their messages of why we need to preserve earth’s natural environments. And so, my dream of using expeditions to connect youth with nature and help them to be the agents of positive environmental change, was taking shape. But starting from scratch and creating one’s own expedition is a big job – tons of logistical planning, ferreting out providers of services such as travel, accommodation, outdoor activities. Given that I’m approaching 50 and time is ticking (loudly) I decided to fast-track my ideas – hook up with an existing expedition where I could provide my educational program as part of their bigger program. And that is when I met Geoff Green, founder and executive director of Students On Ice. After a meeting and some teleconferences, Geoff offered me a place on their 2014 arctic expedition. Only catch is that I had to come up with $10,000 to cover my expedition costs. So I fund-raised, dipped into my retirement fund (I hear retirement’s way over-rated anyway…) and guaranteed my place on the expedition. Next came a few months of planning, creating workshops, gathering gear. My role on the expedition was to teach environmental communication – photography and videography for creating messaging about the environment. And so I worked hard planning and preparing.

Fast forward to July 9th, 2014. That was the start of our expedition. Most of us were to meet in Ottawa, Ontario, my hometown and an hour and a bit from where I now live. Staff and students flew in from all around Canada, the U.S., as well as China, Monaco, Scotland, and Greenland. Carleton University in Ottawa was our meeting point. Most of the 86 high school students and 46 educators and support staff would assemble there to begin our 15 days adventure together.

Once settled in to my dorm room, my first task was to pick up incoming students and staff from the Ottawa airport and shuttle them back to the dorms at Carleton U. A few students, including some of the northern students, had arrived a few days earlier and we’re busy white-water rafting on the Ottawa River, visiting the Museum of History, and other activities to welcome them to Ottawa. But the rest were arriving over the next few days, all full of nervous energy, excitement, uncertainty.

The start of 131 new friendships - picking up students and staff arriving to Ottawa by air.

The start of 131 new friendships – picking up students and staff arriving to Ottawa by air.

Our Students On ice swag. Gotta look good when you head out on an expedition! ;)

Our Students On ice swag. Gotta look good when you head out on an expedition! 😉

Once most of us were settled in our dorm rooms at Carleton U, the real adventure began – getting to know over 100 new faces (and remembering their names! Kuddos to Claire who correctly remembered EVERY name by about day 4 of our adventure. Nothing short of miraculous! 🙂 ). In the evenings, we had presentations by educators and staff, guest speakers who talked about the north, the environment. And we had incredibly inspirational presentations by some of the SOI alumni.

SOI foudre and executive director, Geoff Green, giving a welcome and introduction to the Arctic 2014 Expedition.

SOI founder and executive director, Geoff Green, giving a welcome and introduction to the Arctic 2014 Expedition.

Day 2 was off to a busy start. Our huge group of 86 students was divided into two groups – Sika and Sila (the Inuktitut words meaning ‘broken ice’ and ‘climate and the world around us’ – oh so appropriate….). It was a way to keep the group sizes manageable and whatever activity one group did in the morning, the other group would do in the afternoon and vice versa. It’s hard to herd 86 students, all buzzing with energy and excitement!

Our first big day of activities included a tour of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. This is where our federal government resides and does its ‘thing’. For many of the Canadian students not from Ottawa, it was their first time seeing the place where so many important decisions that affect their lives, are made.

Day 1 - a visit to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Day 1 – a visit to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

We toured the inside of the Parliament Buildings, which are so grand and impressive. The stonework, the gargoyles carved into the stonework, the archways, and portraits of past Prime Minsters and other important Canadians. We also had a look at the House of Commons (The Green Room – where all the banter happens) and the Senate (The Red Room – the place of ‘sober second thought’). I’ve been through the Parliament Buildings a few times in my life, but I always like seeing them. The Senate and the Parliamentary Library have significance for me. My great uncle was the Assistant Clerk of the Senate in the 1950’s. And so, when my Mum was young, she used to go have lunch with him on Parliament Hill. She also used to tell me of the fun she had dashing around under the tables in the Parliamentary Library – something you wouldn’t see happening these days..

We had the full tour inside the main building, which is an architectural piece of art in its own right

We had the full tour inside the main building, which is an architectural piece of art in its own right

The Senate - the chamber of 'sober second thought'. And where my great-uncle was Assistant Clerk.

The Senate – the chamber of ‘sober second thought’. And where my great-uncle was Assistant Clerk.

We also had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Canadian Museum of Nature. What a treat that was! The Museum is one of SOI’s biggest partner organizations. And so we go the ‘inside scoop’ – a look at the collections and labs where the research scientists and collections managers work. We were treated to the most incredible display of rocks and minerals – gleaming rocks of so many different colours, sizes and shapes. A feast for the eyes. Paula Piilonen, a mineralogist with the museum shared her passion for minerals with us. But this was just a teaser as she was to join us on the expedition as well. We also saw the collection of stuffed birds and eggs, dinosaur fossil skeletons and poop, preserved fishes (Noel Alfonso, the museum fish biologist was also to join our expedition), mammal skeletons and a whole lot more!

Some of the mammal skeletons in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Some of the mammal skeletons in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Nature.

We even saw a very special and rare specimen - a two toothed Narwhal tusk. Wow! Narwhals are thought to be the unicorns of the sea.

We even saw a very special and rare specimen – a two toothed Narwhal tusk. Wow! Narwhals are thought to be the unicorns of the sea.

Day 2 ended with more interesting and inspirational presentations. We also began to have students introduce themselves – stand up in front of 100+ people and say their name, where they were from and if they were really brave, share something heart-felt and something quirky about themselves. Needless to say the first night of these introductions was ‘slow’. Most of the students were hesitant, shy, and just not ready to stand up in front of so many people. One girl sitting next to me said, “I’m SO nervous! I don’t think I can do this!” She did. And that was just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun…) in terms of the courage these students mustered over the next 14 days. I have one especially incredible and inspirational story of a student that I’ll save for a later post. But suffice it to say that experiences like these are truly transformational. Most of those students will have arrived back home, not the same person as when they left. They returned with new-found confidence, knowledge, vision, understanding of the world around them, understanding of human relationships, new friendships and a lot more.

Update: I forgot to add in a link to the videos. We had a professional videographer, Sira Chayer, on board who put together fantastic short videos capturing great moments and telling the story of our expedition. Click on the image to play Sira’s video of the first part of our adventure.

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And don’t forget to read the student blogs and journals to experience the expedition from the student’s perspective….

This expedition had such a huge impact on so many of these students. What it took from them was the courage to stretch outside of their comfort zone…

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In my next blog post, I’ll share more of our adventures, including the half day of ropes and zip-lining that the students did. Boy, what a way to break the ice (pardon the pun again, but it was an arctic expedition, after all…) and get the students to connect.

Tune back in tomorrow for the next part of our adventure….

 

[All photographs on this blog posts are copyright Shelley L. Ball. All rights reserved]

Arctic Expedition 2014 – Icebergs at Sunset

Icebergs at Sunset in the Labrador Sea. © Shelley L. Ball

Icebergs at Sunset in the Labrador Sea. © Shelley L. Ball

Some of the most incredible experiences on this expedition were the moments I was out on deck at night, alone, listening to the hum of the ship’s engine, gently rocking back and forth in the sea, the wind caressing my face, and my eyes being treated to scenes like this. Those were truly magical moments…almost spiritual moments. The overwhelming vastness of our earth only became apparent at these truly humbling moments.

Arctic Expedition 2014 – some experiences just change your life forever…

Getting out in zodiacs to explore was one of the huge highlights of the trip for me. I love that the students (and staff) got to see, smell, taste, touch, hear - to experience the north with all of their senses. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

Getting out in zodiacs to explore was one of the huge highlights of the trip for me. I love that the students (and staff) got to see, smell, taste, touch, hear – to experience the north with all of their senses. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

A few days ago I returned from the trip of a lifetime. No, not a trip of a lifetime. An experience of a lifetime. I was an educator (biologist, photographer, and environmental communicator) on the 2014 Students On Ice Arctic Expedition. I, along with 45 other educators and support staff and 86 high school students from Canada, the U.S., Scotland, China, Monaco, and Greenland, spent 12 days together on an icebreaker, exploring the arctic – northern Quebec, the coast of Labrador (including the absolutely spectacular Torngat Mountains National Park), and then southwest Greenland.

The incredible rugged beauty of the Labrador coast near Torngats Mountain National Park. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

The incredible rugged beauty of the Labrador coast near Torngats Mountain National Park. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

It was 12 of the most spectacular, action-packed, eye-opening, inspiring days of my life. And for those 86 high school students on board, it changed their lives. For some, profoundly. In subsequent blog posts, I’ll share some of those stories. In my 20+ years as an educator, I have never seen such transformations in young people in such a short time. It may sound corny, but what I witnessed on that ship in those 12 days renewed my hope in humanity. There are truly good people out there who will do good things, not just for themselves, but for our entire global community. I have no doubt that some of those 86 students on our expedition will be the ones to go on to do great things – big things –  for our world. But also small things too. I think it’s important to be reminded that big isn’t the supreme goal. We can all do something good for our world, in our own ways, no matter how small. So I believe that all of the 86 students on this expedition will have an important influence on the world, in one way or another. Every effort, every action matters, regardless of magnitude.

Me, teaching a photography workshop on shore. I wanted to inspire the students to use their images to share their experiences with the world and to share their concerns about the health of the arctic environment and its cultures, with the rest of the world.

Me, teaching a photography workshop on shore. I wanted to inspire the students to use their images to share their experiences with the world and to share their concerns about the health of the arctic environment and its cultures, with the rest of the world. (photo copyright Lee Naraway).

If I had to sum up the achievements and milestones of the expedition, it would be difficult, because there were so many. We learned about the arctic environment – plants, animals, geology, ocean currents…. We learned about the peoples of the arctic – their culture, history, and some of the tragic stories of contemporary times, when Inuit were forced by the government to leave their homes, their communities, to live elsewhere, and to adopt ‘southern’ ways of life. This was all part of the governments strategy, decades ago, to assimilate our northern peoples into ‘southern’ ways of life. We learned about climate change. We learned about the geo-politics of the north. From early in the morning until late at night, we were busy – outside exploring on the land, exploring the shoreline by zodiac, participating in workshops on board our ship, listening to presentations given by educators, hearing ‘life stories’ that inspired us. There were so many great things we experienced and that resulted from this expedition. But I would have to say that watching the students stretch – to muster up the courage to step outside of their comfort zones in order to experience life to the  fullest and to connect with the people in our group, was by far, the most incredible result of our experience. For me, it did a lot to reinforce my desire to follow my passion – to take youth around the world on life-changing expeditions that will teach them about themselves, help them reach beyond their limitations, to show them some of the earth’s most incredible places, and to inspire them to preserve them and the cultures of the people who live in them. This is my dream. And now, more than ever, I’m determined to make it happen.

Our arctic sunsets were some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball).

Our arctic sunsets were some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball).

 

Over the next several days, I’ll be blogging about my experience on this Arctic Expedition 2014. I want to share with you the things we saw, the things we learned, the experiences we had, the insights we had, and the stories that developed over our 15 days together (12 of which were onboard the Sea Adventurer, our floating home).

I hope you’ll come back to read more. And please pass the link to this blog to anyway you think would enjoying reading it. Thanks!

Shelley

Me, aboard the Sea Adventurer, with a massie glacier in the background. Our wonderful ship's captain took us down some of the most incredible fjords in Greenland.

Me, aboard the Sea Adventurer, with a massie glacier in the background. Our wonderful ship’s captain took us down some of the most incredible fjords in Greenland.

What an INCREDIBLE expedition!!!!!

The view from the bow of our ship, the Sea Adventurer, as we made our way up the SW coast of Greenland and crossed the arctic circle about 4am. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

The view from the bow of our ship, the Sea Adventurer, as we made our way up the SW coast of Greenland and crossed the arctic circle about 4am. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

Hi Everyone! I’m just back from our Arctic Expedition 2014! I arrived home about 36 hours ago after an absolute whirlwind expedition. I can’t wait to share it all with you! I’ve had experiences that I will never forget, met the most incredible people, seen crumbling glaciers with my own eyes. And I’ve done my best to capture all of this in my photographs so that I can share with you the story of my expedition.

Exploring Labrador through several zodiac outings. What a great way to explore the landscape, to see wildlife, and to experience our surroundings with all of our senses... Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Exploring Labrador through several zodiac outings. What a great way to explore the landscape, to see wildlife, and to experience our surroundings with all of our senses… Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

I’ll be blogging about the highlights of our adventure – the things that really stuck with me and that I want to share with you. Being on an icebreaker with 131 high school students, educators, and support staff was nothing short of a remarkable experience. The expedition, led by Students On Ice, was truly a life-changing experience, not just for the 86 students on board, but for all of us.

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Here are a few images to share with you some of the incredible things we experienced. There’s LOTS more to come to keep tuning in. Or even better, subscribe to this blog so that when I post more about our adventure, you’ll get notification of it.

I can’t wait to share my stories with you…

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

 

An inukshuk atop the rocky shoreline at Kuujjuaq, Ungava Bay, Quebec. This was where we began our northern journey. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

An inukshuk atop the rocky shoreline at Kuujjuaq, Ungava Bay, Quebec. This was where we began our northern journey. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

Arctic Expedition 2014: Starts tomorrow!

Just a quick note everyone to let you know that our Arctic Expedition begins tomorrow. We’ll spend 3 days in Ottawa and then fly to Kuujjuaq in northern Qubec to board our icebreaker.

We’ll only have sat phone connection to home while we’re at sea. But Students On Ice will be posting updates on their blog. So be sure to tune in HERE to follow our expedition.

I’m packed and ready to roll early in the morning. I’ll be helping to collect students from the airport as their flights arrive in Ottawa. I can’t wait to meet our 86 amazing students.

Time for an adventure! 🙂

 

Luggage

Arctic Expedition 2014: gear, gear, and more gear!

With just 11 days left until we begin our adventure to the arctic, I’m madly gathering together the last of the gear that I’ll need to take. I’m making lists because it’s impossible to remember everything. Brain overload.

With teaching environmental communication through photography and videography, most of my gear is for this. Cameras, lenses, batteries, tripods. We’ll be on an icebreaker of European origin. It has 220V power outlets so I also have to bring a step-down transformer since I’ve got a gazillion batteries to keep charged. I’ve also been warned to bring a good surge protector. Done.

Here’s a smattering of gear that I’ll be using for teaching the students how to shoot video. For good video shooting, you absolutely need to keep the camera either still or moving fluidly. There’s nothing worse than watching video where the camera has been swaying from side to side. Great way to get motion sick. 🙂

Two rigs for stabilization that I’m taking are a Glidecam DNA 1000 camera stabilizer. And a shoulder rig stabilizer. The Glidecam will allow us to shoot video while we’re walking or running, but without the bumping up and down to make us motion sick while we’re watching the video footage. The shoulder rig will help us keep the camera steady and is also great for panning.

If you’re shooting video, you also need to record good audio. The built-in mic on my Nikon D7100 is ok, but not great and you just don’t have as much easy control over recording volume as with an external recorder. So I’ve got a Tascam DR-05 for audio recording. And to plug into it, a Rode Videomic with a dead cat (that’s the name of the fuzzy cover that goes over the microphone to prevent that annoying sound when the wind sweeps across the mic. I know… I didn’t name it. That’s just what it’s called 🙂 ). I’ve also got a boom pole for the videomic and a lav mic (lapel microphone) for interviews.

Here’s a look at some of the video gear I’ll be taking…

Some of the video gear I'll be taking with me to the arctic. From left to right - Rode video microphone, Glidecam camera stabilizer, Varavon multi-finder viewfinder, shoulder video rig stabilizer.

Some of the video gear I’ll be taking with me to the arctic. From left to right – Rode video microphone, Glidecam camera stabilizer, Varavon multi-finder viewfinder, shoulder video rig stabilizer.

This is just a small bit of all of the gear I’ll be taking. That’s why I’ll have two big lockage plastic cases on wheels, as well as a duffle bag of clothes and my tripods, as well as my carry on camera gear. Here’s hoping my back holds out! :0

Arctic Expedition 2014: Visual Storytelling – the power of photography…

YEAP crowd funding_front_edited-1

My role on this Students On Ice arctic expedition is one of educator. All of us who will fill that role will also contribute to the success of the expedition in other ways, helping with many aspects of daily activities and logistics. But as educators, our primary role is to deliver outstanding educational workshops and activities for the students.

I will be teaching environmental communication. You’re probably thinking, what the heck is that?  Environmental communication uses tools such as photography and video to inform ands to connect with the general public on environmental issues. Our planet faces a number of significant environmental issues such as climate change, habitat loss, species extinction, pollution (including plastic pollution in our oceans), ocean acidification and the dying-off of coral reefs. These are just some of the major issues facing us today.

Plastic garbage that has made its way into the world oceans is responsible for the death of albatross chicks in a colony on Midway Island.

Plastic garbage that has made its way into the world oceans is responsible for the death of albatross chicks in a colony on Midway Island. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball, 44th Parallel Photography

The problem is that if people don’t feel like their daily lives are affected by these issues, then they don’t believe they exist. It’s just the way the human brain works – it’s that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing. But no matter where in the world we live, our lives are affected by these things. It’s just that for some things, the impacts are less obvious for some of the world’s population, compared to others. Or we experience the indirect or trickle-down effects of these things rather than the direct impacts, at least for now. Or the impacts happen so far from us (geographically) that we don’t see them and so they don’t get our attention. A good example of this is the melting of the world’s glaciers and the impact this will have on global sea level and other aspects of our environment. If we don’t see it happening in our own neighbourhood, then we tend not to think about it.

This is where environmental communication comes in and specifically, photography and videography. You’ve heard the expression, ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words’?  As humans, we rely on vision to understand the world around us. This is why photographs can have such impact. When we see something with our own eyes, we are more likely to understand it, to believe it, to relate to it. And some images can even evoke strong emotional responses in us. Strong images can make us care.

It’s this emotional response that is important. Without it, people tune out. They forget about things. But have you ever seen a photo that made you cry? I bet the impact of that photo stayed with you for a few days, if not for months or years or even a lifetime. Images have the power to impact us in that way.

The cover of National Geographic's 125th anniversary edition. Their features on The Power Of Photography are a fabulous example of how photography can inform us, connect us, inspire us and motivate us to take action on environmental and social issues.

The cover of National Geographic’s 125th anniversary edition. Their features on The Power Of Photography are a fabulous example of how photography can inform us, connect us, inspire us and motivate us to take action on environmental and social issues.

I believe that visual images can play a huge role in helping us to understand the impacts of our planet’s environmental issues and the urgent need to take action to halt these impacts. For over 125 years, National Geographic has been doing this – using photography to take us to parts of the globe we have never been before (or may never visit) . They inform us about environmental and social issues in places far from us. Their goal is to motivate us to care enough to do something about these issues. And now that we are in the digital age, National Geographic publishes their magazine digitally (for iPad). We no longer just ‘read’ NatGeo magazine, we experience it. This include video clips, 3D animations, and interactive tools to ‘read’ a story. You just need to look at the October 2013 digital edition of National Geographic magazine to understand the impact photography (and video) can have on informing people about global issues, getting them to care, and getting them to take action.

Copyright France Rivet, Polar Horizons. Used with permission.

Copyright France Rivet, Polar Horizons. Used with permission.

This is why I’m teaching environmental communication on this arctic expedition. I think photography and videography are tools that are critical to addressing the planet’s environmental issues. And who better to use these than the younger generation – the one that will spend the bulk of their lives dealing with the environmental issues that currently face our planet. I’ll be teaching them how to shoot photographs with impact. How to shoot and edit video and to produce their own short documentary-style videos. And I hope they will become ambassadors of the environment – visual storytellers for the environment – sharing their experiences and their messages about the arctic – its wildlife, its landscapes, its people and the rapid changes the arctic is experiencing as a result of global climate change. This is why I have named my program, the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program. I hope that the students will share the stories of their first-hand experiences not just with their family, their friends and their peers. I hope they will share them with the world. I hope my program inspires them to take action on our planet’s environmental issues and that they inspire others to do the same.