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Taking teachable moments to a whole new level

Dr. TA Loeffler atop Gunnbjørn Fjeld, the Arctic's highest peak.

By Michelle Osmond

"Imagine looking out at vistas of only white and blue with a horizon line that parts only these two colours and that you ski toward for days at a time."

This is how Dr. TA Loeffler described her latest expedition on her blog. The School of Human Kinetics and Recreation (HKR) professor left St. John's on April 11 for Greenland. She and her three expedition mates then traversed 275 kilometres of unexplored Greenland by ski from the Brede Glacier to Gunnbjørn Fjeld, the Arctic's highest peak, at 3,694 metres.

After six hours of climbing, the team reached Gunnbjørn Fjeld on May 12; a summit that only about 300 people have summited.

Dr. Loeffler said she's bringing this expedition into her classroom through stories, pictures and case studies.

"I am teaching outdoor recreation management in intersession and have been able to demonstrate several real world applications of the theories and models we are studying in the course," she said. "I've also used it already in my introduction to outdoor education and recreation class as well, giving the students the opportunity to see how the skills they are learning in class can be used in longer and more challenging environments."

The expedition was aptly named Go for Greenland and also involved seven Newfoundland schools as virtual expedition members. With the help of third-year physical education student Taylor Lynn Marsh, who helped design and implement the curriculum, Dr. Loeffler was able to get daily expedition dispatches and curriculum activities to students in Grades Four, Five and Six around St. John's.

To keep in touch, Dr. Loeffler used a SPOT messenger — technology that beamed her location, including longitude and latitude co-ordinates to her website each day, as well as flagging it on Google Maps. The students could also post comments and questions to the website, which Dr. Loeffler answered close to real time on her satellite phone.

"It was really rewarding to have the students follow so closely along and it was always the highlight of our day to download their questions," Dr. Loeffler said.
This was Dr. Loeffler's second summit success in a polar region in six months. She climbed Mount Vinson, the Antarctic's highest peak, this past December.
Dr. Loeffler's next adventure, which will be closer to home, has a personal element.

"My next expedition is to the George River in Labrador and Quebec. Fulfilling a longtime dream, I will paddle a canoe and walk in the footsteps of Mina Hubbard, who did the George in 1905. She is one of my exploration heroes and has been the subject of some of my research."

For that adventure, she'll be joined by three other Memorial employees and two Memorial retirees from mid-July through early August.