Kt Miller (in orange) with the 2012 Teen Leadership Camp

© Kaitlin Kunkler/Polar Bears International

1/2/2013 3:33:12 PM

Churchill Reflections Part II


Colorful lichens and mosses decorated the tundra as September quickly turned to October. Larch trees held on to their last orange needles. Arctic foxes and hares could be spotted from a great distance, looking out of place in their sub-arctic home. Beluga whales were spotted in the mouth of the Churchill River nearly every day. It seemed hard to imagine that the lush, vivid environment I first experienced would soon become a vast frozen landscape in which only the most resilient of creatures could survive.

If there is one skill that I honed as a volunteer for PBI in Churchill it is the ability to roll-with-the-punches. When you are in a remote location like Churchill, you just never know what will happen. Plans evolve, grow, and change in accordance with the environment and our educational goals. Sometimes we search for polar bears, sometimes we engage in educational discussions, sometimes we watch the wind blow.

After a week of bustling around Churchill getting everything prepared, our first group of visitors arrived. A select group of teenagers from across North America came to participate in our annual Teen Leadership Camp. These students have shown, through various forms, their enthusiasm concerning climate change action and initiatives. In partnership with our Arctic Ambassador Centers they were provided the opportunity to join us in Churchill to hone their skills. We spent time discussing ways to initiate action within communities, as well as time observing polar bears and other arctic wildlife. We hope to have provided inspiration to fuel the fire within each participant. From what I observed, we were very successful. The energy and passion that these teens emanated was contagious. I anxiously anticipate the positive ripple effect that these young adults will have in the future.

The following week the teens were exchanged for zookeepers and educational professionals. The first evening the new group arrived our classroom session was interrupted by the most incredible display of aurora borealis I have yet to witness. The entire group flooded to the balcony of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to gawk in disbelief at the immense beauty of such a vivid phenomena. Bright green snakes of light moved in amoeba-like waves across the sky. Hints of red and purple teased the eye. Everyone was speechless.

It is moments like these, combined with education, that inspire stewardship. Intimate experiences with nature are pivotal. As humans we need an emotional connection to fuel our desire to take action and protect that which is our most valuable resource, the Earth. The following morning frost decorated the tundra. A windless sky provided stunning reflections in the many pools covering the landscape. Fall began to disappear, and remaining plant life surrendered to the cold.

Another change of the seasons began. Although many have witnessed it before, it was my first fall in the sub-arctic. As with all firsts, things are noticeably unique and exciting. In honor of the New Year let us take the time to see something as if we are seeing it again for the first time. Let us pause to enjoy and appreciate something simple, something small. Whether it is a compost bin in a kindergarten classroom, or a polar bear print in the snow, we can all view the world through fresh eyes and appreciate.  

This is part two of a three-part series by Kt's on this year's Churchill season.

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