Co-Designing Civic Education for the Circumpolar North

Project Description

NNA Planning: Co-Designing Civic Education for the Circumpolar North Overview:

This planning grant will launch collaborative research into the development and implementation of effective Arctic civic education programs that support sustainable development and community resilience in the region. The Arctic is facing unprecedented changes, including expanding globalization and rapid environmental transformation. Civic education has long been a cornerstone of American democracy, and is designed to cultivate the exact deliberative and civic leadership skills needed to collectively respond to difficult challenges like those arising in the Arctic. This is particularly true given the emergence of new forms of global and environmental civic education, which have the potential to support international collaboration and decision making within the complex socio-ecological systems that define the Arctic.

Unfortunately, there has been little systematic development of civic education curricula tailored to Arctic contexts. Within the Arctic, the recent focus has been on building basic local community capacity to overcome gaps in educational opportunity and to decolonize teaching. Outside of the Arctic, there is even less discussion of how education might be used to make non-Arctic students effective partners for Arctic communities. Addressing these gaps is imperative given the large and increasing role that non-Arctic actors play in shaping the circumpolar North. Bringing these concerns together, there is almost no discussion of how educational programs might be designed to bring Arctic and non-Arctic students together. If the future of the Arctic is likely to be determined by international decision-making processes that bring northerners and southerners together, then it only makes sense to leverage educational spaces to build the capacity of these international actors to work collaboratively together with one another. This project responds to this need by building an international and interdisciplinary team to develop an actionable, convergence research agenda on Arctic civic education. Given the experience of the research team, initial discussions will center on the development of educational resources for undergraduate students, both inside and outside the Arctic. The following key research questions will guide the project:

1. What key elements should define Arctic civic education, such that they prepare Arctic and non-Arctic students to collectively address the complex social and environmental challenges that define the region?
2. How can Arctic education programs be designed and implemented in anti-colonial ways?
3. What opportunities and challenges exist for leveraging travel – both physical and virtual – in advancing Arctic civic education that brings Arctic and non-Arctic students together?

Funding will be used to carry out virtual and in-person workshops that engage a core team of collaborators able to speak to the varied disciplinary, geographic, and Indigenous contexts of the Arctic with respect to education. This team has the potential to transform ongoing educational practice in and about the Arctic and to produce an agenda for an exciting new area of convergence research.

Intellectual Merit:
This project expands fundamental research across a range of educational domains. It places research on civic education into conversation with emerging models of environmental science education and Indigenous teaching practices, to theorize new learning models that tie notions of citizenship to understandings of the science of environmental change. We will also set the groundwork for fundamental research into best practices and evaluation approaches for distance learning programs that bring students together across international borders.

Broader Impacts:
This research has the potential to broadly transform how Arctic Studies is taught globally. As an educational discipline, Arctic Studies is a small but growing field. These programs are likely to expand dramatically in coming years, yet future programs have few effective models for program design and delivery of civic education. This project creates these resources, and ensures they have impact through UW’s ongoing teaching and dissemination through the University of the Arctic network. Bringing together students, faculty, and researchers in this cross-cultural collaborative work will build relationships and the capacity of this team to carry out future Arctic research.

Keywords: Arctic education, civic education, anti-colonial teaching, environmental science education, distance learning

Project Summary