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Former Naujaat teacher promotes Nunavut while teaching aboard Dutch vessel

It was quite the experience travelling with Class Afloat for former Naujaat teacher and cadet leader Lloyd Francis, who left Naujaat in 2018 after spending five years in the community.

Former Naujaat teacher Lloyd Francis works the rigging on board the Dutch vessel Gulden Leeuw while teaching students as part of the Class Afloat program in April 2019.
photo courtesy Lloyd Francis

Francis had 60 students from 17 countries, about half of whom were Canadian, on board the Dutch vessel Gulden Leeuw (Golden Lion) with him during his first year.

There were 60 students representing 14 countries during the first three months of this year’s school semester, when Francis had to return home due to medical concerns with his mother.

Francis taught high school social studies, global geography, global history, political science and Canadian history on board the vessel.

He visited about 30 countries during his tenure, a number of them twice, with Class Afloat beginning and ending its travels each year in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam.

Francis said there were a number of differences between teaching on board and teaching in a regular classroom, including the lack on internet resources on the vessel.

He said that meant having to acquire all his teaching resources either from the previous teacher, the books on board the ship, or by downloading items while in port.

Once we left port, we really had no connection with the outside world,” said Francis.

Students from Australia, Germany and Barbados raise the flag on Nunavut Day after learning about Nunavut in Canadian history taught by former Naujaat teacher Lloyd Francis on board the Dutch vessel Gulden Leeuw in April 2019.
photo courtesy Lloyd Francis

There were, obviously, connections in case of emergencies and things of that nature but teachers had no access to that, so we really had to have everything prepared before we left because sometimes we’d be at sea for up to two weeks at a time.

You also had to be a little flexible because students would get seasick, which meant you had to have lessons prepared that were a little bit easier for the students for when the seas were rough.

The biggest thing my students and I learned, some maybe the hard way, was that you do as much work as you can when you’re feeling good, so you have as much as possible done beforehand when storms hit or you’ve become seasick.”

Available space was also a challenge on board the vessel and, sometimes during a class, everyone would be needed out on deck to conduct a sail manoeuvre, especially during a storm.

Francis said one thing he learned during his time in Naujaat was to be flexible with his teaching methods and that really helped him while on board the Gulden Leeuw.

He said he’s disappointed a planned visit back to the community in the coming month had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

My girlfriend and I were going up for four or five days to visit people I know in Naujaat, visit the cadet corps there and just kind of see how things are doing.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve been there and I miss Naujaat, which I consider my second home.”

Francis said he taught his students a lot about Nunavut while on the ship.

He said the students were really curious to learn about Nunavut, and the students from countries outside of Canada were quite curious to learn about the Arctic in general.

On Nunavut Day, we actually raised the Nunavut flag on the ship and the students thought that was a very cool thing to do.

While in Naujaat, I’d drive my snowmobile out onto the land and turn it off just to listen to the complete silence.

It was kind of like that on the ship too, when we were out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, when you’d look around and it would show you just how vast the world really is.”

Francis said there were more challenges during his time with Class Afloat than he might have thought of at first, but nothing came up that he couldn’t handle.

He said, overall, the experience was pretty much what he expected.

It was something that took a little getting used to but I loved every minute of the experience, which is something I’d consider doing again.

You really bond with the students – you get really close with them – because you are all part of the crew.

You live, work and eat with the students and the rest of the crew, so you get to know everyone quite well. You’re kind of like a family really.

It was a big change going from the Arctic Circle to the Atlantic Ocean, but it was definitely something I’m glad I did for the past year and a half.”