Photo Gallery

Impossible 2 Possible

Impossible 2 Possible

Published: 04/15/2014 by Dr. George Agnes

» Education & Learning Support

As associate dean of science at Simon Fraser University (SFU), I’ve conducted thousands of experiments in my day. But nothing prepared me for my participation in the ultimate educational experiment: observing seven youth each run 180 km of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert to better understand the value of water and its effect on human development and biodiversity.

These students were participating in an impossible2Possible (i2P) youth expedition. A U.S.-based nonprofit organization co-founded by Canadian Ray Zahab. i2P’s mission is to encourage youth to reach beyond their perceived limits, and to use adventure as a medium to educate, inspire and empower the global community to make positive change.


With insightful contributions from others at SFU, I produced an inquirybased curriculum for this expedition and travelled to Botswana to facilitate and support learning on the ground.



In an i2P youth expedition, learning takes place in remote, harsh landscapes where global, geopolitical and environmental issues— water access, food security and healthcare—are explored. As a result, participants develop accountability and responsibility regarding the focal issues as well as a lifelong commitment to pursue solutions to it.


For example, in the drought-ridden Kalahari, access to clean water can mean the difference between life and death. To emphasize this, students ran a marathon a day in 40 degree Celsius heat, consumed eight liters of clean water daily and thereby cultivated a deep appreciation for water accessibility.



Taking adventure-based learning to the wider public has many challenges. Educators implementing expeditionbased concepts for students, who have little or no access to the  expedition, often have their efforts stymied from a lack of context.



Through technological advances, an expedition’s curriculum can take on new meaning when students become participants in inquiry-based exercises of their own design. Students are empowered to discuss their results and obtain feedback in real-time with participants in the field. Such experiential learning is one way to inspire student imagination, innovation and a deeper commitment to investigate in-depth issues from local to global perspectives.

The Botswana curriculum was used in more than 125 schools worldwide and reached nearly 10,000 students. In these classrooms, students’ Grade 6 to 12 conducted experiments exploring the value of water and its effect on human life. They interacted directly with the i2P participants via satellite video. This enabled students to engage in a manner that informed the next steps in their curriculumbased



In the past, adventure-based learning has been offered at a high cost to university students, who can afford expedition and tuition fees. Most

college-aged students are unable to participate and certainly not elementary or high school students.


Often referred to as “21st century learning,” adventure-based learning represents a new type of student experience. By leveraging technological tools to bring an expedition to life, educators and students can engage with individuals and communities far afield and work together to find solutions to pressing global issues – issues that affect all of our lives profoundly. Such opportunities help engage students in shaping their futures by developing a knowledge base and value system that will shape and inform the rest of their lives.