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The Bancroft Arnesen Expedition: Two Teachers Take to the Ice to Expand Classroom Walls


Curriculum Center

Braving wind and ice, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen attempt to become the first women to cross Antarctica. As educators, they realize that the expedition could serve as an inspiration to children. As they struggle to attain their lifelong goal, they share their experiences with kids through the Internet. Included: A teacher and her students share their reactions to this ultimate virtual field trip!

Image"We want to expand the walls of the classroom through our journeys."

Those are the words of Liv Arneson and Ann Bancroft, two women working to fulfill a dream -- and they have decided to take students all over the world along with them.

Arneson and Bancroft hope to become the first women to cross Antarctica. The 2,400-mile trip began on November 13, 2000. The explorers hope to complete the journey by February 15, 2001. "We hope our journey will inspire students to see that they can achieve anything they set their minds to," the women explained.

Although the achievement the explorers seek is a personal dream, as educators they recognize the significance of their message for young people. That prompted them to share their journey with children through their Web site, Bancroft Arnesen Expedition. Educators in 46 countries are following the trek with their classes. The information provided on the site is being translated into Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, Taiwanese, and Malay!


Explorer Bios

Ann Bancroft
Ann Bancroft earned a bachelor of science degree in physical education from the University of Oregon and has taught physical education in Minneapolis schools. She was the first woman to cross the ice to the North and South Poles and led the American Women's Expedition to the South Pole. She is also the founder and leader of the Ann Bancroft Foundation, a non-profit organization that celebrates the existing and potential achievements of women and girls. Diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, Bancroft now works with many charitable organizations.

Liv Arneson
Liv (pronounced "leave") Arnesen was the first woman to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole. She led the first unsupported women's crossing of the Greenland Ice Cap and has climbed the north side of Mount Everest. A native of Norway, she holds degrees in Norwegian language and literature, history, sport, and counseling. During her 20-plus years in education, Arnesen has taught high school and college students and been involved in the rehabilitation of drug abusers.

Bancroft and Arnesen are both accomplished explorers. Each has enjoyed the thrill of setting a nearly unattainable goal and surmounting it. Because they also have had experience working with young people, these explorers know the value of their story as an inspiration to all children.

After two years of preparation, Bancroft and Arnesen began the difficult journey in November. They will take approximately 100 days to make the crossing and hope to reach their journey's end by mid-February. Along the way, the women will face winds that gust to 100 miles per hour and temperatures that average -30 degrees F. Towing sleds of about 250 pounds, the explorers travel about 1 mile per hour, but they also sail on skis and go much faster when the wind cooperates!

Cold and icy Antarctica presents unique challenges to would-be conquerors! The explorers will travel over two glaciers and will need to be on the alert for crevasses, or deep cracks in the ice. The Bancroft Arnesen Expedition Web site is the best way to track the explorers' progress. They submit daily reports for publication on the site's Update page. Teachers may join a mailing list to receive information on new lesson plans and current information about the expedition.

The Education Home page is the perfect place for educators to start. The page is an index of all materials created for teachers. You will find a Calendar that explains the itinerary of the trip and a Route Map so students can see where the explorers will travel. Students may send e-mail to the explorers at Send a Message.

Another part of the site that offers information for teachers and students is the Explorers page. There students can read biographies of Bancroft and Arnesen, learn what inspired them to become explorers, and discover a few of their favorite things.

The free Curriculum materials that appear on the site include Polar Activities and Dare to Dream. The polar activities target a new subject each week, and past lessons are contained in the archive. Lessons focus on the geography and geology of Antarctica. The activities in Dare to Dream promote setting goals and achieving them. In Go the Distance, Bancroft and Arnesen challenge classes to ski, walk, canoe, bike, skate, or run as far as the explorers will ski and sail as they cross Antarctica.


Image Taking full advantage of the opportunity to follow a genuine expedition in real time are Robin Vernuccio and her students at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York, New York. Vernuccio learned of the program through her position as a Girl Scout leader. She also attended a workshop about the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition during the National Science Teachers of America conference in Orlando last spring and got hooked on Web exploration!

Working with the school's computer and physical education teachers, Vernuccio, the lower school science specialist, created a special workshop about the expedition, which convenes before school. Many students signed up for the voluntary activity, open to boys and girls in the fourth grade. During the weekly meetings, the students use the Web site to catch up on the latest news from the expedition.

"[Students] have sent messages to Liv and Ann twice, once before the New Year and once after they made it to the South Pole," said Vernuccio. "[The kids] voted on the Net about when they thought Liv and Ann would reach the Pole, and they really enjoyed that! We follow the map of Antarctica weekly with map pins on a special bulletin board in the science room and read aloud Today's News week after week."

The students have especially enjoyed viewing the explorers' training videos online. They have also liked reading the women's journals. One of the boys in Vernuccio's class compared reading the journals to "being alive during the time of Christopher Columbus and being able to read his logs over his shoulder as he made his way to the Americas"!


"The reactions from the students have been nothing less than truly enthusiastic," Vernuccio reported. "They know that they are part of history being made. They follow the news on the Internet and really feel that they are part of this much larger, incredible thing that is happening. Rather than being bystanders and watching things unfurl through the nightly news or in the print media, they are following events as they are happening."

Some of Vernuccio's students took time to share some comments about the expedition with Education World.

"The BAE expedition is about two ladies going across Antarctica. I have learned what they eat, how they live and survive out there in the cold. They are on the expedition because they are interested in having a great adventure. I am like the explorers because I like adventure. You can't know people well until 'you have walked ten miles in their shoes.' The most interesting thing I have learned is how many calories they are eating each day in order to ski and sail in the cold and the snow," said Jesse, a member of Vernuccio's expedition group.

Risa, another student, explained, "The BAE expedition is about two teachers who want to prove that they are not afraid and can do what they set out to do. I have learned that Ann and Liv are not afraid and have a lot in common with each other. They are on the expedition because they would like to be part of history, the first two women to ski across Antarctica. I am like the explorers because last year in the third grade, I was commander of the class's simulated Mission to Mars. We went where 'no kid had gone before' in class on a voyage to Mars. Personally, I like to be brave and try new things. I would like to be more like Ann and Liv because they are brave enough to leave home and their families and go off on an adventure with someone they know but not that well. I have learned how important it is to work as a team."

"The Bancroft Arnesen Expedition is about two women who want to complete their goal of skiing across Antarctica," said Michael. "I have learned from Ann and Liv that if people really want to achieve their dreams, they have to work really hard. But they can do it if they work hard. They are on the expedition because they want to prove to kids that if they try hard, they can achieve their dreams. I am like the explorers because I like trying to do things that people have never done before. I would like to be more like them by trying to reach my goals and do things that other people have never done before. I learned that the explorers are willing to risk their lives in trying to prove to the kids of the world that if you try hard enough, you can do it!"

Vernuccio explained that the children have developed close ties to the explorers. "The children are living with Liv and Ann as the wind blows the wrong way and allows them only a 9-mile advance in a day," she observed. "You can't imagine how many of them came in after the explorers covered 66.6 miles in one day when the wind picked up and excitedly told me about it. They found out about it from e-mails they received at home. Many of them saw the South Pole arrival on the evening news and bragged about the accomplishment in class. They truly feel like part of the expedition. They also liked comparing their arrival predictions with those of students from around the world."

In the opinion of their teacher, the students are in awe of Bancroft and Arnesen. The kids know how difficult it is to be cold and out in the cold and to exert oneself day after day. They also have experienced working on a long-term assignment for many weeks and seeing it through to completion. The students can relate the obstacles the explorers face to what they are doing in school, in sports, and during after school activities. They recognize, however, that the stakes are much higher for the women in Antarctica. They truly care for Bancroft and Arnesen and wish them the best.

One of the students told Vernuccio, "I know that I would never want to go to Antarctica in my lifetime and do what Ann and Liv are doing, but I am grateful for the chance to do it through them." The pursuit of the explorers has been an inspiration to all the students in the program, and it has encouraged them to follow their own dreams.

The explorers still have a long way to go, so there is plenty of time to get involved. Visit the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition Web site to learn more!


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