Thursday, August 21, 2014
Text Size


E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:35

Lonnie Dupre - Explorers (Modern)


During the last 20 years, Lonnie Dupre has traveled over 14,000 miles throughout the Polar regions by dog team, ski and kayak. Lonnie made a 3,000-mile, first, west to east winter transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage in 1991 by dog team. In 2001, Lonie along with Australian John Hoelscher became the first to circumnavigate Greenland’s 6,500 miles of coastline. This was completed all non-motorized by dog team and kayak.
In 2006, Lonie and Eric Larsen’s One World Expedition completed the first summer expedition to the North Pole pulling and paddling modified canoe/sleds over 600 miles shifting sea ice. Lonnie and Eric reached the Pole on July 1st and in the process reached 68 million people worldwide with a message about global warming. Lonnie lives in Minnesota with his wife Kelly.


Q (Will Steger Foundation): You've been exploring the Arctic since the 1980's. Have you seen any changes in the environment in the time that you've been traveling?
A (Lonnie Dupre): I have seen it rain during winter 1998 in the high Arctic coating the surrounding tundra in a sheet of ice making it impossible for the rare Peary Caribou and muskox to forage for food. 70% of the caribou herd perished. Also between 1982 and 2000 two massive glaciers on Greenland’s east coast vanished leaving dry valleys.

Q (WSF): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (LD): Every year there is less and less multi-year ice (9 to 15 feet thick). In 2006 we crossed lots of ice only 2 feet thick. We also noticed a great number of seals on our way to the pole as well as a Polar Bear at the North Pole. Because the southern Arctic is losing more and more ice during summer these marine mammals are forced further north.

Q (WSF): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (LD): We explorers, like the Polar Bears, will go extinct.

Q (WSF): What concerns you most about warming in the Arctic?
A (LD): The Arctic ice is like a big thermostat for not just the northern hemisphere but for the whole globe. If we lose this ice…we think our summers are warm now... Arctic marine mammals will go extinct and the Inuit people will no longer have their traditional culture.

Q (WSF): What influence or effect do you hope your expeditions will have?
A (LD): To get the word out to the masses not just about the impacts of global warming but also about solutions and the need to act now. We could lose the Arctic ice in the summer as early as 5 years from now.

Q (WSF): Are there lessons or inspirations individuals and communities can take from your experiences?
A (LD): You don’t have to be a polar explorer to stop global warming.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:34

Börge Ousland - Explorers (Modern)


In February 2006 National Geographic Adventure Magazine called Norwegian Börge Ousland "arguably the most accomplished polar explorer alive!" How did Börge become such a well-known explorer?

After high school, Börge trained as a diver and worked for almost ten years diving in the North Sea. He then served in the Norwegian Special Naval Forces.
In 1986 Börge and two of his diving friends skied across Greenland from the East to West, a feat only a few had accomplished in the almost 100 years since early explorer Fritjof Nansen made the first crossing in 1888.

Over the following years, Börge conducted many expeditions. He and another companion skied over the frozen Arctic Ocean from Ellesmere Island to the North Pole in 1990 without receiving any outside assistance. In 1993 he and a friend tried to ski across the drift ice from Frans Josef Land (Russian territory) to Svalbard (islands in the Arctic Ocean about midway between Norway and the North Pole), but were forced to quit when large areas of open water blocked their path. In 1994 Börge trekked solo from Siberia to the North Pole, then crossed Antarctica alone without outside support in 1997. In 2001 he crossed the Arctic Ocean solo from Siberia to Canada via the North Pole. He has also climbed in the Himalaya and crossed the Patagonia ice field. In 2006, Börge and a partner skied to the North Pole in the winter, an expedition long considered impossible. In 2007 he and a partner retraced the historic route of explorer Fridtjof Nansen. At the end of this expedition, they were forced to live off the land for three weeks as they waited for a boat to be able to reach them.



Q (Will Steger Foundation): You’ve been exploring the Arctic since the 1980's. Have you seen any changes in the environment in the time that you’ve been traveling?
A (Börge Ousland): Yes I have seen the changes over the years. In 1986, we skied across Greenland and across the sea ice to Umanak, which we reached on the 1st of May. Now, it is impossible to ski because it is all open water around Umanak at that time of year. In 1990, we skied unsupported to the North Pole. Back then, the ice was 3 meters thick. Last year I skied from the North Pole to Frans Josef Land and measured ice thickness for the Norwegian Polar Institute on the way. The ice was only 2 meters thick - a 30% reduction over the last two decades.

Q (WSF): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (BO): Not really. I adapt, using swim gear and polypropylene kayaks to move fast across unstable ice. The ice breaks up more quickly, making traveling in summer months more dangerous.

Q (WSF): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (BO): If sea ice disappears in the summer months, I am not too worried about polar exploration. That’s a minor issue compared to other more serious impacts. I am much more worried about the animals that live there. It has taken the polar bear thousands of years to become what it is; they can be extinct in one hundred years if this continues. Humans adapt, but polar bears do not have that opportunity. The drift ice is the engine for the whole food chain in the Arctic. If that ice disappears, it will have huge consequences for all animal life there.

Q (WSF): What concerns you most about warming in the Arctic
A (BO): See above, along with the melting of large ice caps, which will cause the sea to rise, and the local people who also depend on the food chain of the Arctic.

Q (WSF): What influence or effect do you hope your expeditions will have?
A BO): My role as the eyewitness is not only to tell the world that changes happen in the Arctic very quickly, but also that I believe we can reduce the damage if we are responsible and act now.

Q (WSF): Are there lessons or inspirations individuals and communities can take from your experiences?
A (BO): When I do my expedition, I solve problems. If there is a solution to a problem, I deal with it. It’s the same with global warming: we know the problem, we know the solution and there is only one thing to do. When the future comes and we look back, each of us needs to say that at least I did my best to solve that problem. I look upon it as a personal responsibility, and that’s really my main message.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:28

More Resources - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - More Resources

Photograher James Balog explores the Arctic and other places where he can “catch global warming in the act” with his innovative time-lapse photography. See one of the largest glacier calvings ever documented in High Definition video as well as other scenes here.

National Geographic explorer Jon Bowermaster just completed his Oceans 8 project where he kayaked in the world’s eight oceans. Oceans 8’s final and most recent kayak expedition was to the remnants of Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf, which Will Steger crossed by dogteam in 1990 and which collapsed in 2002. Read the dispatches, see photos, and watch videos here.

Minnesota natives Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen completed the first summer ski expedition to the North Pole, dragging their gear in canoes behind them and using the canoes to paddle across leads of open water. The goal of the GreenPeace-sponsored expedition, Project Thin Ice, is to draw attention to the plight of the polar bear and inspire action to slow global warming.

Mountaineer Alton C. Byers, Director of the Alpine Conservation Partnership, spent 30 days in 2007 in the Mt. Everest region recreating 1950s-era photographs of Swiss glaciologists and mapmakers. The comparison between the two sets of photos makes what is arguably the best long-term photographic documentation of how climate change is affecting the world’s tallest, most famous mountain.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:27

Action! - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - Action!

Explorers connect with the natural world in a personal way that makes them care about protecting it. Their experiences in nature can also provide an eyewitness to the public about changes that might otherwise go unnoticed.

You don’t need to go to a far-away place like the Arctic to be an explorer. You can explore natural areas around your home. If you’d like to connect with other people who share your love of exploration, find a local outing club. Here is a directory. You can share with the members of your outing club your concerns about climate change. As a group you can brainstorm projects and actions to work collectively to slow climate change.

There are several national groups that organize outdoor excursions and also work on conservation. Find your local chapter here:


Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:25

Discussion Starters - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - Discussion Starters

Teachers: Use the following information to spark discussion in your classroom. Familiarize students with the events, people and organizations in the following paragraphs and then encourage students to discuss their opinions and reactions. There are several example questions and suggested areas for discussion. Remind your students that discussion requires well-supported opinions, respectful listening, and sometimes agreeing to disagree.


Many people feel disempowered by the daunting challenge of slowing climate change. A focus group commissioned by Ted Turner found the following:
“Nightmarish scenarios environmentalists tell about global warming so terrify and repel ordinary Americans that they retreat from engagement. The more you scare people about global warming, the more they want to buy SUVs to protect themselves. Miniature Arks.”

Source: Susan Bales of FrameWorks Institute.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, founders of the Break Through Institute, argue that what truly motivates people is an inspiring vision. They make the case that people might be more willing to work towards slowing global warming if leaders could present a vision for a better world for which it would be worth working, rather than focusing on the potentially catastrophic climate change we might bring upon ourselves through business as usual.
In a 2004 essay [] Nordhaus and Shellenberger look to the example of Martin Luther King whose “I have a dream speech is famous because it put forward an inspiring, positive vision that carried a critique of the current moment within it. Imagine how history would have turned out had King given an I have a nightmare speech instead.”

In their 2007 book BreakThrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, Nordhaus and Shellenberger go on to say:
“What we didn’t know at the time we wrote those words was that King had given an I have a nightmare speech. In fact, he had given it just moments before he gave his I have a dream speech…It was perhaps the darkest and most discouraged speech King ever gave. But then something strange and wonderful happened. A voice rang out from the back…It was Mahalia Jackson, ‘Tell them about your dream, Martin!’…King then seemed to find the words Mahalia Jackson had tossed himm, and he began the new speech. ‘And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.’ From there King led the hot crowd in a rapid climb out of the valley…racial integration suddenly felt inevitable.” (pp. 2 – 3)
Other people realize the importance of an inspiring vision. Adam Werbach, the youngest ever President of Sierra Club (he was 23 years old at the time of his appointment) recounts the following experience.

In 2003, in Erie, Penn., and Akron, Ohio, the Apollo Alliance did focus groups among undecided, working-class, swing voters -- the very people who would determine the outcome of the 2004 election. I had the luck to observe the focus groups from the other side of a one-way mirror.

Instead of starting the focus groups by asking people what they thought of global warming, our pollster Ted Nordhaus simply asked them how things were going. This open-ended question led, invariably, to focus group participants describing the collapse of the local economy. They would list, in depressing detail, the shutting of Hoover Vacuum and Timken Ball-bearing factories; gone to Mexico. They explained that the jobs that had been created in their wake -- mostly service sector jobs in places like Wal-Mart -- paid half as much and offered no health care or retirement benefits. Many said they were working two jobs to make ends meet.

We then asked them what they thought of the idea of a major federal investment program to accelerate America's transition to the clean energy economy of the future: research and development, manufacturing of wind turbines and solar, energy efficiency. We didn't have to prove to them that such a program would pay for itself; they knew it would intuitively. Hadn't a similar program succeeded in the post-war period? Of course it had.

What had been a roomful of tired and semi-depressed working folks transformed itself into a roomful of excited, optimistic Americans in a period of just 20 minutes. The energy emanating from the room was palpable.

And then something extraordinary happened. Nearly every single person in the room started to sound like Sierra Club members. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. They waxed poetic about solar panels. They spoke of their children's future -- their future -- and the planet's future. They remembered episodes from the area's local history -- like when thousands of jobs were created to retrofit smokestacks after the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment -- things that James Watt and Rush Limbaugh want them to forget. But more than that, Apollo tells a narrative about American greatness, our history of shared investment and prosperity, of our ingenuity, and how we build a better future.

When our pollster left the room, several of the women participants speculated excitedly about who was sponsoring the focus groups. Was it a corporation seeking to open up a factory? Perhaps a car maker? The more excited they got, the sadder I felt; we were years from getting Congress to pass the kind of legislation that would create these jobs in Akron.

Ted was insistent about his method. "We're just going to start by listening," he'd say. "Let's figure out where they're at."

Previous focus groups I had attended got defined upfront by moderators in a hurry to test environmentalist messages and slogans. As a matter of principal, environmentalists don't hire pollsters to tell them not to talk about the environment.

"Tonight," these moderators would often say, "we want to hear what you think about a few environmental issues." You could almost see the air leave the room. Here we were, interviewing people worried about how they could afford to pay an increase in the health care premiums, whether their children were learning anything at school, and how they could go another night on four hours of sleep, and we were asking them about issues that only three to five percent of them would volunteer as the most important issues facing their community.

Invariably, these folks would voice support for environmental laws, for clean air and clean water, and higher fuel economy standards, though hardly ever with much enthusiasm.

What was different in the focus groups we did for Apollo? It wasn't just that we addressed concerns like jobs and economic development that are of a far higher priority. It was also that we spoke to their aspirations, their families, their communities, and their country. We activated a set of ecological values that, ironically, cannot be activated through environmental rhetoric that is now more than three decades old.

We did a poll and found that more than 70 percent of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania supported a $30 billion annual investment in energy efficiency and clean energy. Having never seen such high numbers supporting any government program, the pollster to the Steelworkers, an Apollo ally, stressed in a poll question he asked that the $30 billion annual investment would come from taxpayer money. A funny thing happened: support for Apollo went up.

Why? Because Americans see the problems facing their communities and their country as big problems and they want big solutions…

I have come to believe, after a decade’s work on this issue, that saving ourselves depends not on our ability to shock, but rather to inspire....Imagine our strength coming not from our separate movements, but from our interconnections

Source: Adam Werbach speech December 8, 2004 []


  • How do you think most people tend to react when confronted with information about possibly catastrophic climate change? How do you react?
  • Do you feel empowered to work towards slowing climate change?
    • If so, what makes you feel empowered?
    • If not, what makes you feel disempowered? What could motivate and empower you?
  • What aspects of the future and the possibilities it holds excite you?
  • How do you think people could become empowered to work towards slowing climate change?
  • Some people worry that working to slow climate change will destroy the economy.
    • Do you think that it would be possible to create a vision that would protect people’s financial security while at the same time protecting the climate?
      • How could you make this vision inspiring?
      • How could you communicate this vision to people?
      • How could you motivate people (and yourself) to start working toward this vision?
Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:24

Lesson Plan - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - Lesson Plan

Central questions:

  • What are explorers discovering today?
  • How can we learn about our world by studying explorers?
  • How can we be explorers?


  • Each student will read about a modern polar explorer.
  • Students write and perform “skit” television news segments on each explorer.
  • Students will discuss the significance polar explorations in the context of a warming planet.
  • Students will brainstorm ways they can be explorers.

Time Needed: At least forty-five minutes

Grade Level: Middle School or High School

INTRODUCTION (2 minutes)

Introduce the idea to your students that although nearly every place on the surface of the earth has been “discovered”, people are still exploring. Author Kenneth Brower writes:
“The country [is] all waiting to be known again. Most discovery is rediscovery. The best discoveries are personal, anyway, and not the kind commissioned by queens and scientific academies. The idea that Earth’s landscapes have been used up in some ways [is], for me, peculiar.” (Source: The Starship and the Canoe, 1978)
Every year explorers journey into the mountains, deserts, oceans, rainforests, rivers, and even into the cities and towns. The most important characteristic of an explorer is a sense of curiosity and a desire to see things for him or herself.
The Arctic is a region that has attracted many explorers over the years and continues to attract many today. Learning about Arctic explorers can help us better understand this remote yet important part of our earth, especially as it experiences rapid climate change. Learning about explorers can also help each of us become explorers of our own surroundings.


Explain to your students that you are going to divide them into five groups. Each group will receive a hand-out that gives background information on a modern Arctic explorer and also features the explorer’s answers to interview questions.

Each group will be responsible for creating and performing for the rest of the class a three-minute “skit” TV news segment about the explorer. The skit will need to feature a News Anchor who introduces the story, explains a bit about the background of the explorer, and frames for the audience the significance of the explorer’s expeditions. The skit should also feature a news correspondent who is “on location” with the explorer. The news correspondent should conduct a brief interview with the explorer that covers some of what the explorer has witnessed, especially as it relates to climate change in the Arctic. The Anchor should then close the story by summarizing the significance and leaving the audience with a “take home message.”

Depending on how many students are in each group, additional parts could include someone running the “teleprompter”, other explorers who participated in expeditions with the explorer being highlighted, actors recreating “footage” from previous expeditions, or other roles the students create.

Remind the students that the skit content should be appropriate for the classroom and should be sure to cover the important points, but that the students should feel free to have fun with the skits. Remind the students that each group will have only three minutes to perform their skit. Groups will have very little time to plan their skits, so let them know in advance that skits do not need to be “polished.” They should be impromptu, quickly moving and fun.


  • Divide students into five groups. Distribute one “Modern Explorer” hand-out to each group. (2 minutes)
  • Each student group reads its hand-out and quickly plans a skit. (5 minutes)
  • The class reconvenes and each group presents its skit. To allow for transition time between skits, plan five minutes for each skit. (25 minutes)

Here are some example questions you might choose:

  • Now that nearly all the places on the surface of the earth have been “discovered”, of what value, if any, is modern exploration?
  • What did you learn about the Arctic from these explorers?
  • Do you think it is possible for people to feel more connected to an area like the Arctic by hearing stories and seeing images from explorers who go there, even if the people themselves do not have a chance to go there? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it would take for you to be an explorer? Is it possible to explore areas close to your home?
  • What insights could you share with others if you explored the nature that is close to your home? How would you share those insights?
  • If you wanted to help people connect to their own surroundings, how would you do it? What effect do you think it might have on people if they were more connected to their surroundings?

Note to teachers:

You and your students can follow Will Steger’s Ellesmere Island expedition on Will is traveling with a team of young explorers aged 21 to 28 to visit remote research stations and rapidly changing ice shelves. Dispatches, photos and videos from Will’s 2007 Baffin Island expedition are also available on the website.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:20

More Resources - Explorers (Young)

team_ice.jpgYoung Explorers - More Resources

Students on Ice takes high school students age 14 – 19 and their teachers and chaperones on learning expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. On their website you can read daily dispatches and see photos from previous expeditions.

National Geographic Young Explorer Grants aim to foster the next generation of researchers, explorers, and conservationists. Seed grants to individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 provide the opportunity for many recipients to pursue their first experiences in the field.

The Pittarak Expedition led by National Geographic Young Explorer and Global Warming 101 expedition member Sarah McNair-Landry skied and kited 1,430-miles (2,300-kilometers) to cross the Greenland icecap. See the expedition journals, logs, photographs, and high-definition video footage here.

With guidance from teachers, even very young students can research community problems and plan their own service projects. Kids as Planners is a guidebook that helps teachers engage students in Service-Learning. It can be purchased through the Kids Consortium.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:19

Action! - Explorers (Young)

sigrid_03.jpgYoung Explorers - Action!

Your home region is the best place to start exploring. Visit a Nature Center near you to learn about your local environment. You can ask the staff of the nature center for ways you can take action in your community to help protect the environment.

Help develop the next generation of explorers by hosting a No Child Left Inside Day. The Chesapeake Foundation provides suggested outdoor activities and information about the No Child Left Inside congressional bill. Getting kids connected with nature is an important step towards developing environmental responsibility.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:18

Discussion Starters - Explorers (Young)

toby_03.jpgYoung Explorers - Discussion Starters

Teachers: Use the following information to spark discussion in your classroom. Familiarize students with the events, people and organizations in the following paragraphs and then encourage students to discuss their opinions and reactions. There are several example questions and suggested areas for discussion. Remind your students that discussion requires well-supported opinions, respectful listening, and sometimes agreeing to disagree.

Each generation is unique. There has been a lot of attention in the media lately about the “Millennial Generation”, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. The New Politics Institute produced a profile of the Millennial Generation, drawing on numerous polls, studies, reports, and analyses. Here is an excerpt of the report:

The “Millennial Generation” is becoming the most common name for young people born roughly in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, who are pouring out of college right now. This generation is even larger than the Baby Boomers…

Similar to the Boomers, the Millennials are poised to impact the country at every life stage and in myriad ways - but particularly in politics. By 2008, the number of citizen-eligible Millennial voters will be nearing 50 million. By the presidential election of 2016, Millennials will be one third or more of the citizen-eligible electorate, and roughly 30 percent of actual voters—and this is making no assumptions about possible increased turnout rates among Millennials in the future, which could make their weight among actual voters higher. Moreover, from that point on, the Millennials’ share of the actual voters will rise steadily for several decades as more and more of the generation enter middle age.

The Millennials are an unusual generation, not like young people we have seen for a long time. As first noted by generational analysts William Strauss and Neil Howe, they are not individualistic risk-takers like the Boomers or cynical and disengaged like Generation Xers. Signs indicate that Millennials are civic-minded, politically engaged, and hold values long associated with progressives...

For example, they take concern for global warming and the environment as a given. Millennials overwhelmingly believe that the country should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment, that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost and that people should be willing to pay higher prices in order to protect the environment…

And, according to the December, 2006 Pew Research Center Gen Next data, Millennials who are 18-25 today (birth years 1981-88) are running about 10 points higher than Gen Xers at the same age on following what’s going on in government and in level of interest in keeping up with national affairs…

Generations are more than just numbers; they have personalities that are shaped by many factors, including what's happening in the world when they come of age. The Millennial personality comes closest to that of the "GI generation," the one lauded by some as the "Greatest Generation," members of which fought in World War II and built up America and the world in the postwar boom. Millennials are fundamentally optimistic, willing to trust political leaders who perform well, and they believe in government again…

Note, however, that Millennials, while clearly believing in the potential of government, are not satisfied with the ways politics is conducted today or with the politicians that currently represent them. [A Harvard IOP October, 2006 survey of 18-24 year olds found] 78 percent agreed that “elected officials seem to be motivated by selfish reasons;” 74 percent agreed that “politics has become too partisan;” 69 percent agreed that “the political tone in Washington is too negative;” and 75 percent agreed that “elected officials don’t seem to have the same priorities that I have.”
Source: New Politics Institute, 2007 []

The list is long of organizations and movements where Youth are taking action on Climate, including (but not limited to) the following:

Youth can have powerful voices. On November 5, 2007, the U.S. Congressional Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing titled “Youth Leadership on Climate Change.” Young leaders from groups including Students Promoting Environmental Action, the Energy Action Coalition, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, and the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action addressed the committee. Their speeches moved the audience to applause and tears. You can watch clips of their presentations here [].


  • How accurate do you think is the New Politics Institute’s description of the Millennial Generation?
    • Do you feel their description captures the characteristics of you and your peers?
    • Did the description miss any important aspects of how you identify your own generation?
  • What experiences in your life and the lives of your peers do you think helped shape your generation’s personality?
  • How does it make you feel to have your generation’s personality compared to that of the “GI Generation”, those who won WWII and turned the United States into a world power?
  • How does it make you feel to know that your generation is more engaged, more active, more optimistic and less cynical than Generation X, those people who are now in their thirties?
  • What impact do you think your generation’s personality characteristics will have on this country’s politics? Social systems? Environment? Cities? Foreign policy? Response to climate change?
  • Do you believe that community, government and business leaders will take your generation’s voice into consideration? Why or why not?
    • What could you do to make sure your views are heard and valued?
    • Can your generation’s optimism and engagement “rub off” on other generations? How could you make this happen?

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:17

Lesson Plan - Explorers (Young)

sarah.jpgYoung Explorers - Lesson Plan

Central questions:

  • Who are some of today’s young explorers?
  • What can we learn from the example of young explorers?
  • How can we be explorers?


  • Each student will read about a young explorer.
  • Students will discuss what qualities and characteristics they think make a person an explorer.
  • Students will brainstorm ways they can be explorers.
  • Students will spend time outside of class exploring their surroundings.
  • Students will create and maintain a field journal of their explorations.

Time Needed: At least forty-five minutes, plus follow-up time on a different day

Grade Level: Middle School or High School

INTRODUCTION (5 minutes)

Introduce the idea to your students that most of what we know about the world around us was discovered and recorded by people who were curious about the world around them and who wanted to share their experiences and discoveries with others. We could use the word explorer to describe these curious-minded people whether they are naturalists, scientists, artists, mathematicians, philosophers, travelers, or adventurers.

There is still much to be explored in our world; we shouldn’t think that just because there are few blank spots remaining on world maps that all the questions are answered or that all the discoveries have already been made.

We also should not think that a person has to be “accomplished” in his or her field to make discoveries. Anyone with a curious mind, even a very young person, who actively explores his or her surroundings will make personal discoveries. These personal discoveries and the connection they create to the natural world are an important part of being a responsible steward of the world.
Looking at the examples of several young explorers can help us gain insights into characteristics and qualities that make a person an explorer. We can use these insights to learn how to become explorers of our world.


Explain to the students that you will divide the class into groups of three students. You will then distribute a hand-out to each student that introduces a young explorer and includes some of that explorer’s written reflections on being an explorer. Each student should read his or her hand-out to the other two students in the group. As each student reads, the other two students should jot down key words that describe qualities and characteristics that explorer possesses or important decisions that explorer made that led him or her to becoming an explorer. Each group will then share with the class their favorite or best insights about what makes a young explorer.


  • Divide the class into groups of three. Distribute one “Young Explorer” hand-out to each student (note: there are more than three hand-outs, so you can choose which hand-outs are most appropriate for your individual students). Give the groups time to read and share. (10-15 minutes)
  • Reconvene the class as one large group and ask each group to share its best or favorite insights about characteristics of the explorers to whom they were introduced and/or what they feel makes a person an explorer. Write key words and phrases from student responses on the white-board. (10 minutes)


Homework: If your students have not already suggested this concept, introduce the idea to them that they can be explorers as well. They can start by exploring their surroundings including their yards, neighborhoods, the school grounds, parks, and even their cities and towns.
Remind them that explorers share their discoveries with others by documenting their experiences and observations.

  • Brainstorm with your students ways they could document their experiences of exploring the world around them (this could include photographs, sketches, journals, blogs, videos, audio recordings, a combination of these, or other ideas). Ask your students what positive outcomes could emerge from having a personal connection with their surroundings. If they do not suggest it, you might ask them if they feel that having a personal connection to their home region or for nature in general might make them more likely to care for it. 5 minutes
  • Make an assignment that each student explore his or her surroundings and document their experiences and observations in a creative way.


Notes to the teacher:

  • You can decide for how many days or weeks this project should continue, how many journal entries each student should have, and how the journal projects will be shared with the class.
  • Remind students that any explorations should be undertaken with the knowledge and consent of their parents or guardians.
  • At the conclusion of the journaling project, summarize and debrief the experience with your students. You might chose to ask:
  • What insights did you gain from exploring?
  • How did the act of documenting your experiences impact the experiences?
  • How does it feel to share your experiences with others?
  • Did you feel you developed any personal connection to their surroundings through their explorations and if so, does this impact your motivation to care for their surroundings?
  • You and your students can follow the young explorers featured in this lesson as they travel with Will Steger on the Global Warming 101 Ellesmere Island Expedition. Follow the expedition at
Page 10 of 17