Becoming an Expeditionary Educator:
My Canada C3 Story
You must be true to yourself.
Strong enough to be true to yourself.
Brave enough to be strong enough to be true to yourself.
Wise enough to be brave enough to be strong enough to shape yourself from what you actually are.
-Sylvia Ashton Warner
Taking the risk to learn is a brave and powerful act. It is my privilege as a land-based and people-inspired educator to provide the space, tools, and ‘idea seeds’ for my second grade students from Calgary, Alberta to harness and shape their own learning identities to make the world a better place. On a daily basis, my students show me that no matter the circumstances we are facing, we have the power to make a difference. Seeing my students embody this calling is my “why,” and their energy fuels my passion to bring the world to them through expeditionary learning.
It only takes a few new headlines to see that climate and environment are at the forefront of public discourse, but how do we include early learners into this complexity? I was deeply moved by the way in which my students used inquiry thinking to generate questions that led to their design of a city-wide composting program in Calgary. They transformed their learning and used experiential knowledge to take action and become stewards of the planet. Most importantly, my students truly know that their actions have inspired others in our city to compost!
This zeal for environmental learning, coupled with my love for the North, inspired me to apply for the Canada C3 expedition. Before the expedition launched on June 1st, 2017, I used Twitter to follow the ship and virtually connect with the crew. My students loved seeing the ship being painted in the harbour, talking to the captain, and getting the opportunity to geographically map out Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. We used visual journals to capture our experiences and their anticipation for the voyage to begin was only matched by the news of my selection.
It was my honour to have been selected from 5000 applicants to be one of 300 people to embark on the Canada C3 journey. Canada C3 was a Canada 150 Signature project to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Canada C3 was a 150 day expedition from Toronto to Victoria via the Northwest Passage. C3 means “Coast to Coast to Coast,” traveling along the longest coastline in the world, the Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Pacific Ocean.
On May 31st I boarded the Canada C3 ship in Toronto. I felt like I was Willie Wonka and had a "golden ticket!" My fellow shipmates and I were elated to meet. We talked. We laughed. We connected. I also took the time to prepare my heart and open my mind to what was yet to come. Before we left Toronto on our journey I was blessed to hear Mike Downie (brother of Gord Downie from the Tragically Hip) and Chanie Wenjack sisters Pearl and Daisy share Chanie's story. He was an Ojibwe First Nations boy who ran away from his residential school in Ontario. His story started me on a unknown path of learning. Here is a link to understand Chanie's story.
To begin our journey aboard the ship we met as a group in the legacy room, a dedicated space to welcome conversations about our nation’s past, present, and future and then began the launch of a lifetime starting in Lake Ontario. My journey on June 1st was historical. It was 10 days through the Saint Lawrence River heading towards Montreal. The Canadian C3 ship is a 220-foot, former Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker, that was lead by Captain Stephan Guy. The C3 expedition built a legacy that united Canadians through conversations, science, music, arts, experiences, our land and our peoples.
The ship made stops in communities to meet people and visit environmentally and culturally significant sites while promoting four themes: diversity and inclusion, truth and reconciliation, youth engagement, and the environment. Scientists conducted 22 different experiments aboard the ship; they collected coastal sediments, water samples, viewed birds, and continuously worked in the onboard lab. I even had the chance to see them tag eels! Every leg had youth ambassadors who are passionate about using their unique gifts and talents for a better Canada and a better world. These are our future leaders.
A heart wrenching moment on the ship was when all of the C3 family participated in a Kairos blanket exercise in Kingston which focused on the Indigenous Peoples history. Watching Canadians who are indigenous and non-indigenous share this experience and have truthful conversations was eye opening and thought provoking. I was a crying mess! I couldn't imagine my children or my students being taken from me. It was unbearable. As a community, we shared tears and began the process to understanding why truth and reconciliation is needed in Canada.
Of the four themes, our group organically came to appreciate the need for reconciliation with our nation’s indigenous peoples and the power and respect we all must have towards water within our environment. Diversity and inclusion and youth engagement were intertwined into our daily experiences. Here is video that was created on Canada C3 about inclusion.
All of the themes have helped me reflect on what steps I need to take, in order to build a foundation for Canada’s next 150 years. For myself, this journey gave me a new family and passion to be a changemaker. I forever feel engaged and changed to have been part of this remarkable expedition.
Whether it was late night jam sessions, drumming, painting, exploring communities, or conversations, our unique community became one. Some say it was like summer camp for adults with deep conversations; I believe it was an epic experience that brought a nation together.
For an educator, everything about the Canada C3 expedition, and any expedition for that matter, is teachable: The geographic route, the science projects, the diverse communities, the people! Teachers can create intricate STEM lessons associated with the C3 ship. The possibilities for engagement are endless.
To quote Diz Glithero, Education Lead of C3, “A project like Canada C3 is inspiring, empowering and transformative learning. The learning sticks...it’s real! It’s about who we are as Canadians and who we want to become.”
We ended every night sitting in a circle and being present together. It was a beautiful time that I will always treasure. Circles are significant and represent our Mother Earth. The Canada C3 Expedition taught me that it is from the fabric of this circle that we begin to shape ourselves from what we actually are.
Canada C3 has insightful videos to tell stories that connect Canadians to the land and the people. Please check out their VIDEOS.