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GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series

GoNorth! is the world’s forerunner in adventure learning, with free K-12 adventure learning programs delivered to classrooms worldwide on an annual basis since 2000. Reaching more than three million learners annually (across all fifty states and the entire globe), the first six GoNorth! programs provided the grounding proof-of-concept for AL. In these programs, students from around the world completed research-based lesson plans while interacting with an Arctic dogsledding expedition team, scientists, and their peers and teachers. Students learned about climate change, Arctic geography and culture, and issues of sustainability, among other topics, as they followed live expeditions that traversed the circumpolar Arctic.

“My students think this is the most amazing learning experience they have ever had. From the lesson activities to the online chats, (and) collaboration areas, it is truly inspiring for me as a teacher… my students are talking about what they are learning outside of my classroom. I even have parents inquiring about the program.” - Jen, 2nd year science teacher

From the Arctic to Africa, adventure learning (AL) is changing how students learn and teachers teach. AL provides students with authentic learning experiences within a hybrid online environment, as students follow along with a live expedition centered on a specific location and issue and tied to a predesigned curriculum. Learners separated by distance and time are able to connect with one another, access authentic data and media assets tied to a real-world event, and collaborate with each other, with field experts, and with the expedition team.

Adventure learning is grounded in two major learning perspectives: experiential learning and inquiry-based learning. Experiential learning stems from the work of John Dewey (1938) and David Kolb (1984). In 1984 Kolb describe experiential learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.” The grasping and transforming of experience to which Kolb refers is what adventure learning strives to create within a virtual learning environment!

“I loved going online because it helped us understand what the teacher was teaching. We would actually be able to see it all in action and be part of it.”- Penelope, 5th grade student

In inquiry-based learning (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999), students pursue answers to their own questions rather than rote memorizing facts. Both the curriculum and the online classroom are developed to foster students’ abilities to inquire by “identifying and posing questions, designing and conducting investigations, analyzing data and evidence, using models and explanations, and communicating findings” (Keys & Bryan, 2001, 121).

Past AL Programs

GoNorth! 2010 Greenland
Brought focus to our oceans and to Greenland and the Kalaallit people as the team explored approaches to sustainable development of the ocean’s resources, sharing their journey and discoveries with millions of schoolchildren worldwide.


GoNorth! 2009 Nunavut
The team explored the consequences of transboundary pollution while traveling along the spine of Baffin Island and up the coast of the Arctic Ocean and Baffin Bay in the land of the Inuktitut people.


GoNorth! 2008 Fennoscandia
The team traveled 1,000 miles by dogsled across Arctic Sweden, Finland, and Norway in the Sápmi region, investigating the issues of deforestation with the Sámi people.



GoNorth! 2007 Chukotka
Traveling to what is considered the most remote Arctic region, the team explored culture and the use of mineral resources in the last secret outpost of the former Soviet Union. Geographically isolated, the peninsula is considered one of the least known places on earth.


GoNorth! 2006 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The team journeyed across northeastern Alaska through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, stopping at five Native communities and one oil platform along the way. This program explored the impact of oil exploration and sustainable development of the Earth’s natural resources.


Arctic Transect 2004
A 6-month, 3,000-mile traverse of the Canadian Arctic from Yellowknife, NWT, to Pond Inlet, Nunavut, this expedition documented climate change in the Arctic. The team met with Inuit Elders and students enroute and explored traditional ecological knowledge in the remote communities along the trail.


AL Principles

The AL 2.0 Principles, created from 6 years of designing, developing, delivering, and researching AL environments, is an extension of the original AL model and identifies the following principles of a successful AL program designed by teachers and students: (a) the identification of an issue and respective location of exploration; (b) a researched curriculum grounded in problem-solving that guides the progression and evolution of the AL program; (c) collaboration and interaction opportunities between students, experts, peers, explorers, and content; (d) education that is adventure-based; (e) exploration of the issue, environment, local population, culture, and additional relevant factors that provide an authentic narrative for students and teachers to follow; (f) design and utilization of an Internet-driven learning environment for curricular organization, collaboration, and media delivery; (g) enhancement of the curriculum with media (e.g., photos, video, audio, etc.) and text delivered from the field in a timely manner; (h) synched learning opportunities with the AL curriculum and online learning environment; and (i) pedagogical integration guidelines and strategies for the curriculum and online learning environment.

AL Practice

One of the caveats of the original AL model was the belief that AL represents an elitist model of online education made possible only through sizeable funding and considerable development timelines. Although this may be the case in large-scale AL projects such as GoNorth!, successful and engaging AL programs can take place in one’s own local community over the span of a few hours, days, or weeks, and can even take place in one’s own backyard. Therefore, by rearticulating the original AL model into a practical model of integration, we encourage teachers and students to embark on their own unique AL experiences.

AL Community

The AL 2.0 Community model outlines the various connections and social affordances that are instrumental in determining if and how social collaboration and interaction within an AL project take place. If the synthesis of issue, place, and curriculum serves as the heart of an AL program, then collaboration and interaction serve as the arteries and veins necessary for prolonged sustainability and vivacity.

AL cannot be successful at a transformational level unless there is successful interaction and collaboration at multiple levels between students and teachers; between students and subject-matter experts; between teachers and subject-matter experts; between students, teachers, subject-matter experts, and the AL adventurers and content; and between students themselves, teachers themselves, subject-matter experts themselves.

Adventure Learning Research

Veletsianos, G., Doering, A., & Henrickson, J. (2012). Field-based professional development of teachers engaged in distance education: experiences from the Arctic. Distance Education, 33(1), 45-59.

Koseoglu, S., & Doering, A. (2011). Understanding complex ecologies: An investigation of student experiences in adventure learning programs. Distance Education, 32(3), 339-355.

Moos, D., and Honkomp, B. (2011). Adventure learning: Motivating students in a Minnesota middle school. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(3), 231–252.

Doering, A., & Miller, C. (2010). Adventure learning: Authentic online learning. eSchool News, [Online serial], (April 2010), Retrieved from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/03/11/adventure-learning-authentic-online-learning/.

Doering, A., Scharber, C., Riedel, E. & Miller, C. (2010). “Timber for president”: Adventure learning and motivation. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 21(4), 483-513.

Veletsianos, G., & Doering, A. (2010). Long-term student experiences in a hybrid, open-ended and problem based adventure learning program. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 280-296.

Veletsianos, G. (2010). A small-scale adventure learning activity and its implications for higher education practice and research. education, 16(1).

Veletsianos, G., & Kleanthous, I. (2009). A review of adventure learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(6), 84–105.

Veletsianos, G. & Eliadou, A. (2009). Conceptualizing the Use of Technology to Foster Peace via Adventure Learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 12, 63-70.

Doering, A., & Veletsianos, G. (2008). What lies beyond effectiveness and efficiency? Adventure learning design. The Internet and Higher Education, 11(3-4), 137-144.

Miller, C., Veletsianos, G., & Doering, A. (2008). Curriculum at forty below: A phenomenological inquiry of an educator explorer’s experiences with adventure learning in the Arctic. Distance Education, 29(3), 253-267.

Doering, A., & Veletsianos, G. (2008). Hybrid online education: Identifying integration models using adventure learning. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(1), 101-119.

Doering, A., Miller, C., & Veletsianos, G. (2008). Adventure learning: Educational, social, and technological affordances for collaborative hybrid distance education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 9(3), 249-266.

Doering, A., & Veletsianos, G. (2007). Multi-scaffolding learning environment: An analysis of scaffolding and its impact on cognitive load and problem-solving ability. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 37(2), 107-129.

Doering, A. (2007). Adventure learning: Situating learning in an authentic context. Innovate 3(6).

Doering, A. (2006). Adventure learning: Transformative hybrid online education. Distance Education, 27(2), 197-215.


Doering, A. (2010) Finalist: Minnesota TEKNE Award. GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series. Minneapolis, MN.

Doering, A. (2010) SIGtel Online Learning Award. GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series. National Educational Computing Conference, Washington DC.

Doering, A. (2008) Tech Laureate of the Tech Museum Awards: Technology Benefitting Humanity (http://www.techawards.org/). San Jose, California.

Doering, A. & Miller, C. (2007) AECT Outstanding Achievement in Innovative Instructional Design, Top 5 Funded Projects >$100,000 Design and Development Showcase. Awarded for Polar Husky: GoNorth! adventure learning environment.

Doering, A. & Miller, C. (2005) Winner – IBM Beacon Award for Best Philanthropic Solution, awarded for the Polar Husky: Arctic Transect 2004 online expedition environment.


The research, design, and delivery of GoNorth! were supported in part by grants from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation and Nomads Adventure and Education.


Additional References
Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (Eds.). (1999). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Experience and education. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Keys, C., & Bryan, L. A. (2001). Co-constructing inquiry-based science with teachers: Essential research for lasting reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.




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