Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Unconventional Classroom

I was captivated by the educational component of the Arensen/Bancroft expedition. Maybe that part stuck out to me just because I want to work in the education field. In any case, I couldn’t help but think that they picked a most unconventional, yet effective classroom from which to teach their curriculum. In a way, the technologies that they brought with them on their journey allowed them to bring elements of experiential education to the curriculum they designed. The experience of being able to follow these two women on their journey in real time, and on occasion have the chance to speak with them provided an experiential component to more typical lesson plans. The descriptions of how kids responded to the expedition and the curriculum itself were some of the most memorable parts of the book for me.

At the same time, the presence of technology that allowed them to reach so many students created an interesting dynamic between isolation from and connection to the world outside of their partnership during the expedition. Early in the text, when referring to the satellite phone, Arnesen writes, “We were completely connected and completely isolated at the same time” (8). I feel like that must be an interesting dynamic to navigate. For me part of the appeal of a backcountry experience is not being constantly connected to everyone. Bancroft even writes “But we hated to give up the isolation. It felt as if having all that gear somehow diminished the adventurous feel of the journey for us” when referring to the pile of modern technology they decide to carry with them (70). She goes on to describe the challenges of the period of adjustment in which the two of them to adjust to being physically isolated but at the same time able to communicate all over the world. At the same time though, the Arnesen describes the ability to connect, especially with the kids, as “magical” (70). The ability to communicate with others while in the midst of crossing Antarctica on foot is remarkable and I think very much changed the nature of their expedition. I think that the choice to maintain such extensive communication despite the initial hesitations about giving up that isolation highlights the commitment that these two educators had to their curriculum’s design. 

1 comment:

  1. I also found the educational aspect of the text to be exceptionally interesting. It made me think about some comments in Tuesday's class in which students argued that each adventure narrative has to bring something new to the table in order to make it an interesting and worthwhile read. The discussion of Blum's Annapurna centered almost entirely on female stereotypes and the female perspective because the gender of the climbers was the differentiating factor of the book. However, though No Horizon is so Far is also the story of women adventurers, it seems that the educational purpose of the journey is the truly revolutionary aspect of Arnesen and Bancroft's story.
    I do agree, though, that it seems problematic to have so many children watching the trip through the use of complex technologies. It creates a disconnect between that which the children see and that which Arnesen and Bancroft experience. For, though the children see two isolated women in the wilderness, Arnesen and Bancroft lose that sense of complete isolation.