Co-Designing Civic Education for the Circumpolar North


Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas. NNA projects address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic. This Arctic research is needed to inform the economy, security and resilience of the Nation, the larger region and the globe. NNA empowers new research partnerships from local to international scales, diversifies the next generation of Arctic researchers, enhances efforts in formal and informal education, and integrates the co-production of knowledge where appropriate. This award fulfills part of that aim by supporting planning activities with clear potential to develop novel, leading edge research ideas and approaches to address NNA goals. It integrates aspects of the natural environment, built environment, and social systems, builds significant educational opportunities, and engages internationally and with local and Indigenous communities.

This project launches collaborative research to produce a model for teaching civic education for the circumpolar North. The Arctic is emerging as a distinct world region facing unique issues, including unprecedented environmental and social change. Education is an important tool in supporting Arctic-centered responses to new challenges and opportunities. Despite initial efforts by educational institutions like the University of the Arctic, more work is needed to create educational approaches that support cooperation between the diverse peoples, organizations, and countries of the circumpolar North. Civic education can provide such an approach. As a longstanding cornerstone of American democracy, civic education provides students with knowledge and skills to effectively participate in the political decision-making processes necessary to respond to today’s most pressing challenges. In collaboration with numerous Arctic partners, this project co-designs civic education for the unique context of the North. In doing so, the project transforms how Arctic Studies is taught within and beyond the Arctic. Given increasing international interest in the region, Arctic Studies programs are likely to expand dramatically in coming years. This project provides new programs with a model upon which to base design and delivery of civic education, thereby shaping the relationship that countless future students have to the circumpolar North and that the North has to the world.

The project asks the following questions: (1) What key elements should define circumpolar civic education, to prepare Arctic and non-Arctic students to collectively address the complex challenges that define the region? (2) How can these educational programs be designed and implemented in Arctic-centered ways? (3) What opportunities and challenges exist for leveraging travel and distance learning to bring Arctic and non-Arctic students together? The project answers these questions by carrying out a series of workshops that engage a broad range of Arctic researchers and practitioners. Workshops engage participants in discussions of how to conceptualize civic education for the Arctic; how to rethink core concepts of civic education through Indigenous lenses; and how to better leverage online learning and study abroad opportunities. Major outcomes include comprehensive surveys of civic education and Indigenous-centered teaching in the Arctic; creation and consolidation of research partnerships; identification of core elements and approaches for teaching circumpolar civic education; identification of key opportunities and challenges associated with online learning and study abroad; and refinement of a long-term research agenda on circumpolar civic education.

Principal Investigators

Co-Principal Investigators

Project PI(s)
Funded Institutions
University of Washington
Project Start Date
Sep 2021
Award Year
Funding Track