Michelle Oleary, a high school teacher from rural community Waimate, in New Zealand, loved that we brought Hillary’s Hut – Antarctica Virtual Reality experience directly into her classroom. She worked for two seasons at the United States McMurdo Station in Antarctica and has personally visited the historic huts and served as an official tour guide for Discovery Hut, so this was extra special for her.
“Through VR, students were able to step inside Hillary’s Hut, walk through the rooms, view artwork and maps on the wall, along with interacting with historic artefacts in the radio room and kitchen.”
The students were learning about sustainability and the environment, so they focused on how the Trust is conserving and maintaining the historic huts in a sustainable manner. Student Connor reflects “I enjoyed the VR experience because you get to go to the huts and experience them without (the carbon footprint) and actually going”.
Michelle also had her students bake a recipe from the heroic age of exploration – sledging biscuits! These biscuits preserve well and don’t freeze, which made them an important food source during the expeditions. The students all agreed that their biscuits looked a bit more appetizing than those 100-year old biscuits in the huts.
Following this fantastic engagement in Michelle’s classroom, she organised a visit for her senior geography students to Christchurch, Gateway City to Antarctica. Students came to the Antarctic Campus and met with staff from the Trust and even had the opportunity to meet one of the Trust’s conservators who shared stories of preserving precious items in the world’s most extreme environment.
“I found the visit to their office very informative and intriguing. I especially enjoyed getting to know more about the geopolitical aspect of Antarctica and also liked hearing from Lindsay Meek and Francesca Eathorne about the conservation done on the artefacts left on the continent by early explorer” says Jack, an NCEA Level 1 Geography student.
Students also engaged with other programmes such as Antarctica New Zealand, visited the extensive Antarctic gallery at Canterbury Museum and were even lucky enough to go aboard a C17 aircraft with the US programme! Their visit culminated in a camping trip to Quail Island where they connected further with the early polar history of those, such as Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who spent time on the Island.
“Students were delighted to travel to Christchurch and to understand the wider context of New Zealand’s presence in Antarctica and why this is important. Some of our students have chosen to study the historic huts the Trust cares for as part of their NCEA assignments so the chance to connect with a conservator was invaluable. It helped make their topic around sustainability more real – and the message that it is them, their generation, that will protect this incredible legacy into the future – was a powerful one” says Michelle.