Students from Art & Design, Animal Care and Applied Science at MidKent College visited the Historic Dockyard, Chatham during November to attend the ‘Crisis at the Poles’ conference. The conference was organised by the Historic Dockyard Trust and the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and centred around the ‘Pole of Cold – Extreme Cold, Extreme Lives’ exhibition in the galleries at the Dockyard.

Our students had the opportunity to see the exhibition and take part in associated interactive activities. The main phase of the event saw Claire Warrior, Senior Curator of Exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum, lead presentations and discussions by Dr Simon Boxall, an Oceanographer at the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton. Students also heard from Lucy Wood, the Director of Cape Farewell, an organisation that instigates a cultural response to the climate challenge.

Andrew Smith, Lecturer in Art & Design said “The students were thrilled to be involved in such a prestigious event with eminent speakers. The overall theme is vital to the future of our planet and being able to have input into the content of the new galleries at the National Maritime Museum was an invaluable opportunity for all those who attended. The afternoon was a huge success and greatly benefitted all parties but most noticeably our students who gained much from this enriching experience”.

The presentations were diverse and in-depth, giving our students an overview of the history and science of climate change. It also highlighted the causes, ramifications, possible solutions and how artists and scientists are seeking to heighten awareness of climate issues. The question and answer session at the end of the presentation saw the students questioning the panel with enthusiasm, showing that they felt strongly about the issues being discussed.

The final phase of the afternoon involved the students splitting into small groups, each one with a facilitator from the National Maritime Museum. The purpose of this was to discuss what young people thought about in what form and what exactly should be included in the NMM’s new galleries, one of which is dedicated to the polar regions.

The positive experience was reflected in the comments made by Ant Finch, Lecturer in Animal Care, “The day was very valuable to all students and it was excellent having time to discuss a range of significant issues in relation to climate change. Dr Simon Boxall highlighted significant environmental data and readings that suggest the level of climate change could be much more drastic than the predictions and models suggest. The students had opportunity to discuss these issues. The idea of Animal Management, Science and Art & Design students taking away this message to their peers and sharing in their own way is promising and powerful. I hope the visit inspires our students to get the message out by using their own subject specialism, pushing for change and educating everyone”.