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Continued: Centennial geography teacher heads to the Arctic; class follows online

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 9, 2013 - 1:44 PM

Temperatures are expected to drop to 20 degrees below zero at night and the group will be crossing polar bear country.

“If you see a polar bear, consider yourself prey,” Ripken said.

The expedition will bring bear bangers, whose noisy clang is supposed to dissuade the bears.

“He’s a master teacher,” Centennial Principal Tom Breuning said of Ripken. “For us, he’s a role model for kids.

“It’s taking geography and putting it in real-life applications. When he is there, he will be using his iPad and he will be communicating back to his classroom. For us it’s a win-win.”

Looking beyond the map

For Ripken, adventure learning is one way he’s changing how his students view geography, which is a required course for ninth-graders at Centennial.

Sometimes, you’ve got to look beyond the map, he says.

“It’s not just about physical features and the location of cities, it’s about human connections. It’s a major curriculum change over the last 11 years.

“If I had my choice, we’d board a bus. We’d be going out into the world. … It’s just not possible, so I do my best to bring the world to them.”

Ripken has figured out ways to bring some of that humanity into the classroom even during semesters when he’s not globe-trotting.

He teaches a unit on the geography of happiness, in which students theorize about how things such as wealth, family connections and weather contribute to happiness. The student brainstorm, research and map their best hypotheses. Then they compare it to a Dutch researcher’s findings.

Ripken also teaches a unit on urbanization and smart growth.

“We really take into account population patterns, the issues of development. We look at the existing physical environment and cultural patterns,” he said. “Students now see the links between geography and people.”

You can follow the adventure at http://n60.co/

Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804

  • related content

  • Members of the North of Sixty team posed for pictures during a send-off at the University of Minnesota: from left, Ph.D. student and new media developer Brad Hosack, associate professor Aaron Doering, Ph.D. candidate Jeni Henrickson and Centennial High teacher Chris Ripken.

  • Doering Ripken worked on a drying rack to hang inside their tents during their Canadian arctic expedition. They will be pulling sleds laden with nearly 200 pounds of gear.

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