Education

Part of an explorer's job is to communicate their adventures and promote the issues they encounter from a personal perspective. Through my blog and podcasts schools have had open discussions about climate change issues, cultural differences, and why there is a need to keep on exploring.

ROCK . ICE . SAND . 2015

In 2015 I worked closely with my UK education partners IGGY.net on an exciting education program called 3 Journeys. The premiss was to operate in 3 different ways across 3 very different areas of the world and then to link to students on a global scale through their own on line program. I would report back what I was seeing and feeling in the snow, rain, heat and humidity,

Highlights
3 countries covering over 2000 KM
Temperatures ranging from -20 to + 30
18000 students connecting via IGGY
Injuries during the trips - Zero

Crossing Iceland on foot pulling a trailer of equipment over 300 miles from North to South. Sleeping on ice, rock, dusty roads, volcanic black stone and green lush fields. Weathering the storms, wind and rain whilst all the time communicating to classrooms how modern day explorers operate.

I then headed in to the mountains of the Himalayas in the same year the world watched earthquakes kill over 8000 people. The confidence in trekking had been weakened so I shot a short educational film to highlight the changes and the need for people to keep on exploring this incredible country. The families wanted their lives back so a fresh new look was required to bring the trekkers into the mountains and therefore money back into the economy.

We achieved this message through the film - I felt proud to step back into the country again after operating out there for nearly 10 years, over 180 people have been guided during that time by my team.

Finally, the heat! When I deliver talks I am asked why the cold? When will you enter a warm expedition? For me, to encourage an audience to follow my adventures; I need to evolve. For Oman I set about putting together a good team of cyclists who had ventured out on other expeditions in the past with me and together we cycled over 1250KM from the North to South of Oman.

Oman is a country situated in a very angry, hostile section of the world but yet it holds its own as a peaceful nation. I felt welcome and this encouraged me to explore. Cycling allows you to see a country in slow motion - to capture things you would never see in a car. The sites and smells - the smiles from locals, along with the snorting of the camels as we raced along the roads through the deserts.

"Rock. Ice. Sand" was set up to allow students to discover more about their planet from their own classrooms around the Globe - I wanted to encourage them to look at the cultural differences and most importantly for me, to look at themselves and their own position within the world.

Arctic Schools Program

The Arctic Schools program connected two of the most northern Inuit settlements in the Canadian High Arctic. There I planned to make a film about Arctic travel, and also how the local communities survive in such a hostile part of our planet.

Highlights
Documentary about the people in the arctic two highest Inuit settlements 250 in one 80 in the other
6 weeks spent in the settlements
4 weeks on expedition on ice working in minus 35
Polar bears in the area
Over 60 schools in the UK and over 10, 000 students connected to the project

The first of the settlements, Resolute Bay, is situated on Cornwallis Island next to a section of the North West Passage. It is a small community of about 250 people, made up of workers from the Canadian mainland (mostly construction employees and teachers) and the local Inuit. Three hundred miles north east of Resolute is the second settlement – and the most northern one – Gris Fiord. Located on the south coast of Ellesmere Island, its population is even smaller than that of Resolute.

Over the weeks spent travelling on ice between the settlements and delivering talks to the schools I built up some excellent film footage for the project. As I had hoped, the film provoked great interest in schools around the world and I received positive feedback, giving me the encouragement to tour schools and organisations. I delivered presentations on how the Inuit live their lives in a freezer.

Global Schools Program

The Global Schools Project was born from the idea of putting something back into the villages and schools that we travel through whilst on expedition in the Nepalese Himalayas. Working closely with the local communities we aimed to improve the teaching and education within remote schools around the Khumbu region in the mountains by linking them with other schools via the internet and Skype. Not only does this aid teaching and training but also directly improves the education and lives of the children and helps give students a better understanding of their own planet.

Highlights
Over 30 schools line the route to Everest
Two expeditions set out to bring education supplies to the area
Major contributors were Skype
Over 200 items of equipment went into one school from solar panels to pencils
Skype connection link to other schools in the area, to schools on a global scale and to aid medical purposes on the mountain
I have guided over 180 trekkers through the route to Everest, contributing to the project

Support was given by the local people of the region coupled with support and vision provided by organisations such as Skype / Microsoft, IGGY from Warwick University and of course the many schools around the globe that follow my expeditions. In just two years we fitted solar panels to schools, along with computers, printers, projectors and screens. In addition to Information Technology equipment, we also provided educational and sports equipment. New school uniforms and warm clothing for the winter periods were purchased and provided for every child.

The schools are now on the internet doing the things that we take for granted such as using Google earth, surfing the web and connecting to others via Skype. Using technology, the children have connected with other schools, played educational films and much more. we also saw the need for teachers from the UK to go over and support the nepalese teachers in how to use the new equipment. To make the project sustainable we re-cycle some of the equipment into new schools and an internet cafe within the village to help pay for the electricity in the schools.

Through the expeditions i ran in the mountains the trekkers and climbers helped to paint the schools inside and out with the help of the local communities and the children. These schools were the blueprint for projects in the future. We are delighted to be working alongside SKYPE to establish an educational project benefiting not only the local Nepalese students but also students from all around the world. These schools were the blueprint for projects in the future. We are delighted to be working alongside SKYPE to establish an educational project benefiting not only the local Nepalese students but also students from all around the world.

IGGY - Cycle New Zealand education program

New Zealand has always been one of those places people have told me to go and see. With my love of the outdoors, it has been high on my list however, I was looking for a challenge as well as a way to continue the link with schools globally before committing to this wonderful part of the world. A few years back I had cycled over 6000 KM across the USA so to cycle New Zealand was a great option. In the early part of 2014 I set off on my bike from the Northern most tip of the North Islands and finished on the Southern most tip of the South Islands - 2000 KM later.

Highlights
2000km covered on the bike
Only 3 punctures
1 bee sting / 1 spider bight
12 schools visited
1000 students connected on the ride
Over 50 schools joined in the project world wide
IGGY supported the venture - creating the school links

As I cycled down through the country over 25 days, I stopped off at schools to deliver talks to new audiences about modern day exploration. I also discussed the environment, thinking differently about life and finally I told them about the University of Warwick and how the students could become IGGY members IGGY.net

I spoke in over 10 schools on route - one of them that stuck in my mind was Christ College in Christchurch. The principle told me about the day of the earthquake and how all of the children and staff hid under the tables to begin with before running scarred in to a safe area in the school grounds. A truly terrifing moment which I later relayed back to schools in the UK on my return.

New Zealand was everything I expected it to be and more. I cycled 250 miles alongside the Pacific Ocean in the sunshine, I spoke to some incredible students on route and I kept that all important link through IGGY, connecting to students around the world.

My Life In A Freezer

After exploring the Canadian high arctic for 6 years through guiding everyday people to the Geomagnetic Pole, BBC crews to the Magnetic (96 position) Magnetic Pole and various training expeditions I decided to test myself and attempt a solo expedition. To co-inside with the expeditions to the North and south poles I linked up with Skype / Microsoft and grant Thornton international to run a project aptly named - My Life In a freezer.

Highlights
40 school involved in the UK
20,000 students world wide involved in the expedition online
800 students came to the open day
BBC, news, radio and TV covered the event
National coverage for the expeditions
Documentry won the best cinematography award at a european adventure film festival

With schools volunteering to be involved in the expeditions to both the North and South Geomagnetic poles we created projects around modern day explorers, healthy eating / life style, understanding the environment. I connected from base camps to schools via Skype, we created film podcasts so they could understand what its like to travel alone through the cold extremes.

Post expedition I visited schools to deliver talks and see the work they had achieved whilst I was on ice! I then held an open day at the Coventry Rugby Stadium in the UK for representatives of the schools involved. We held a full day of activities which was covered by the BBC TV and Radio.

Skype Mount Everest ascent expedition

I regard myself as a polar explorer rather than a mountaineer. From 2006 to 2011 I had guided over 180 everyday people through the Nepalese Himalayas on various different expeditions - from Mount Everest Base camp to climbing 6000 metre peaks. Throughout my journeys Mount Everest always looked down on me but I never felt the need to climb it.

Highlights
75 days on the mountain
10 countries linked directly to the expedition
100,000 students became invvoled
4 members in the team came back alive

In 2012 I approached Skype / Microsoft with a unique idea to bring in as many students world wide visually and in real time to a major expedition to ascend Mount Everest. The idea was to build a rapor with students in 10 different countries prior to the expedition. as they got to know me as an explorer they then were inspired to create projects in their own schools - building a time line for the expedition, understanding the culture of Nepal, cooking expedition food along with many other creative ideas.

Once on the mountain they then met the rest of the team from the climbers, guides to the film crew and education support. They intern via Skype calls became part of the team - joining in with decisions on route so they felt apart of the experience.

We took students from Brazil, Aland Islands, Thailand, Germany, UK (2 schools), USA, Sweden, Australia, India to Everest - as a team we were honest in how we felt and the problems we faced. My decision near the summit to turn back with 500 metres to go reached out to over 100,000 students worldwide. This highlighted the fact that exploration is literally about the journey and returning home safely.

Skype In the Classroom

Ever week of my life I am either on expedition, delivering talks , setting up new projects or relaxing at home with my family - where ever I am or what ever Im doing I find time to connect via Skype to schools around the world.

Highlights
Over 40 countries have been visited
Thousands of students have connected to my work through this project
6 children in Northern territories in australia to every school in Germany through an interview with a Berlin radio station.

Connecting with schools in Thailand, Brazil, Germany, Australia, India and more I have spoken to over 200 students in an assemble in New York and then 6 students in a remote self funded school in the Northern territories in Australia. I have also been interviewed on a Berlin radio station that transmitted to all the schools in Germany.

For me this is a way of expanding my principles of exploration to a wider audience. I talk for 20 minutes about modern day exploration which is then followed by questions from the students. I also show vital equipment used on my journeys along with my Polar Bear tooth which always goes down well.

The schools get so much out of the connection but for me it is so inspiring to reach out to so many students - and my conclusion out of speaking on line is that no matter where you live on this planet we are all fundamentally the same.

See https://education.skype.com/users/29105-mark-wood-polar-explorer for more information.