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Arctic Blast 2001

Education Curriculum & Lesson Plans

Online Classroom Dogsled Expedition


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"Weekly Topic & News" is posted here every Monday by 7 a.m. CST

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"The Weekly Topic and News" merges the expedition, educational goals, and the needs of teachers. It is the most important component of your online classroom expedition.

Start each week with an in-depth look at this page.

The topic of the week is emphasized with clearly presented, facts and information supplementing each unit of the curriculum package.

Information is also provided to help make real world connections, investigate personal values and discuss current issues.

Completing the circle, the weekly topic will also be highlighted from the Arctic Blast explorers.

Using the sights, sounds, and wilderness perspectives of the arctic facilitate meaningful and energized classes.

The Weekly Topic and News integrates the nationally accredited, K through 12, Nunavut curriculum package and the weekly reports from the expedition. This is where the adventure of collaborative learning really begins.

WEEK 5:
Winter



During World War II, the Army conducted a series of tests designed to determine a soldier's cold tolerance. The reason for this study was fairly obvious as many troops were deployed on various arctic and mountain campaigns. Soldiers on these missions would be exposed to constant cold. Having a group of people who could withstand the extreme hardship of winter might provide the Allied forces with an important tactical advantage. (Here is where the details of the story are a little fuzzy.) Many different types of experiments were completed; however, the results were always inconclusive. The researches couldn’t seem to find any answers. Finally, the scientists asked the soldiers one simple question, “Do you like cold weather?” Ironically enough, those who responded, “Yes” were found to be able to tolerate lower temperatures and cold. The Army had found their answer.

Although I try to avoid stereotypes at all costs, I find there are two basic types of people in this world: those that like winter and those that don’t. My theory (I like to think) is also backed by the World War II research conducted by the United States Army. The second part of my “winter” theory deals specifically with those who would have answered “no” to the Army’s question: I believe that everybody can be a winter lover. For those of you who don’t like winter, I offer this easy cure: put more clothes on!

Being outside in winter can involve a wide range of activities. From skiing to ice fishing to making snow angels to walking your dog, winter provides many unique outdoor opportunities. A person can be sweating one minute and freezing the next. Temperatures are usually well below freezing and hypothermia is a constant threat. These conditions can be very dangerous if treated indifferently. A large part of “liking” and being safe in winter involves understanding how to dress.

First and foremost, listen to your mother! If you are cold, putting on a hat can greatly reduce the amount of heat you loose. This may seem like a simple solution; however, it is not always followed. Winter hats aren’t necessarily the “coolest” fashion accessory; however, as much as 70% of your body heat escapes through your extremities. Putting on a hat, wearing mittens, and making sure your feet are warm and dry can make you considerably warmer. Remember, your mother was right when she told you too... “Put on your hat!”

Winter experts promote a “layering” system for outdoor dress. Layering helps you create a balance between your body temperature, your clothes, and the weather. The principle is simple and involves wearing multiple layers of clothes. Therefore, a person can shed or add clothing as conditions or your exertion levels change. A layering system usually includes three components: an inner moisture wicking layer, a middle insulating layer, and an outer shell layer. Each layer serves a specific purpose. The layer closest to your skin must wick moisture away from your body. Cotton should be avoided at all costs as it absorbs wetness. Most outdoor enthusiasts use synthetic materials that have special hydrophilic (water loving) fibers that “pull” sweat away from your skin. The middle insulating layer must remove moisture as well. This layer traps warm air next to your body and provides insulation. A person can wear multiple insulation layers; however, be careful to avoid tight fitting clothes. Finally, The outer layer protects you from the outside weather. Wind and snow can easily penetrate most clothing. Therefore, most people wear a “shell” that can repel wind and wetness.

Avoid heat loss by staying warm, staying out of the wind, and staying dry. Your clothes play a vital role in helping you cope with the climate around you. Being properly dressed can mean the difference between enjoying a nice winter day versus hypothermia. It can also mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation. As a general rule, use the acronym C.O.L.D. as a guideline.

C - Keep your clothes clean. Clothes are made from intertwined fibers that help trap air to insulate your body. When the spaces are filled with dirt, the insulative properties are lost.
O - Avoid overheating. Valuable body energy is lost when your body overheats. Just like a car running out of gas, you can too if you use too much energy too fast. When sweat next to your skin evaporates, it cools your body. Finally like dirt, sweat fills the spaces in your clothes and decrease their insulation.
L - Wear your clothes loose and layered. A protective insulation is formed when air is trapped between layers. In addition, it also allows you to add and remove layers as necessary for the given weather conditions or to regulate your own body temperature.
D - Keep dry. Wet clothes lose their insulation qualities. If snow gets on your clothes, shake it off immediately. Rubbing snow will only push the snow into the fibers of your clothes and eventually make you wet. Of course, in order to keep dry it is important to avoid sweating and overheating.

If I were to ask an Inuit person the Army’s same ‘cold’ question, most would answer a definite, “yes!” Historically, the Inuit celebrated the onset of winter. Feasts were prepared to mark events like the first freeze or snow. Summer was typically a time where travel across the tundra was difficult. Thick clouds of mosquitos and black flies made conditions very difficult at best. For the Inuit, winter was definitely the preferred season. Traveling was easier, bugs were non existent, and most importantly, they were dressed in a manner that allowed them to be warm and comfortable in even the coldest of conditions. Traditional Inuit dress consisted of watertight boots, double layer pants, and a parka. The parka was a tight fitting double-layer pullover jacket with a hood all made of animal skins and furs.

Gore Tex, Thermax, fleece versus Polar bear, caribou, or seal skin. Despite modern all the advances of modern technology and research, people have not been able to exactly duplicate the warmth and protective qualities of natural skins and furs. It is obvious that the Inuit were able to use resources in the environment to provide them with a perfect set of winter clothing - regardless of their winter preferences! Finally, if you’re cold, I encourage you to add another layer of clothes and rest comfortably with the knowledge that you are not Sam McGee.

“...Talk of your cold through a parkas fold, it stabbed like a driven nail. If our eyes we’d close, then our lashes froze, ‘til sometimes we couldn’t see. It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee...” “The Cremation of Sam McGee” By Robert Service

To better understand the idea of “keeping warm” check out the Collaboration Zone, My Arctic Engine.

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