#3 Critical Thinking in Iceland

Monday, 6th January 2020

Destination Specialist

edu responsible travel whale

As with other northern European countries, Iceland is regarded as a country with a good understanding of environmental issues. Due to its unique geography, Iceland has an abundance of renewable energy to take advantage of. However, its geographic location is also fragile and many locations are dramatically effected by global changes to our climate.

For these reasons, Iceland provides students with a unique opportunity to discuss modern environmental issues and case studies in a remarkable setting. This itinerary includes the suggestion of many academic exercises that prompt discussion and critical thinking.

What you'll study:

  • Critical thinking using contemporary examples
  • Global issues on a local scale
  • Glaciology and climate change
  • Geothermal energy
iceland south west glacier walk on sollheimajokull

Iceland sustainability by numbers

5 Days in Iceland

Day 1 – Visit 6th most sustainable city in the world

You’ll fly into Keflavik airport and head through the rugged landscape of Reykjavik, where 60% of the population live, 84% of waste is recycled and 99% of electricity comes from renewable sources.

After exploring the city your group will visit Perlan, a spectacular museum and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The museum has state of the art exhibitions on Iceland’s fascinating physical geography. One of the particular highlights is the ice cave and glaciers exhibit which projects the bleak future for Iceland’s glaciers.

Your students will be pleased to stay at Reykjavik City Hostel, who are proudly running a range of sustainability initiatives, (learn more…)

Day 2 – Renewable Energy Studies

Begin your day with a tour of Hellisheidi, the third largest geothermal power station in the world. Learn how Icelandic people have harnessed their natural resources to provide energy to their communities.

Next you will make two stops to agricultural facilities which are also taking advantage of this geothermal energy, Flúðasveppir Mushroom Farm and Fridheimar greenhouses. Here students will learn how local people are using sustainable farming to grow organic products. You will even enjoy a homegrown lunch at one of these locations.

Next stops are to some of Iceland’s most iconic sites, Geysir, Thingvellir and Gullfoss. The two tiered waterfall at Gullfoss provides students with an interesting critical thinking exercise: Should Iceland build use Gullfoss for HEP? After the discussion you can tell students the story of Sigridur Tomasdottir who saved the waterfall from being destroyed to build a power station in the early 20th Century.

iceland south west gullfoss winter view wg

Day 3 - Glaciology

Start your day on the striking black beaches at Reynisfjara before heading to one of Iceland’s most visited glaciers, Solheimajokull. Here your guide will walk students onto the glacier itself to learn more about how and why the glacier is retreating. You can also use our case study video and resources in the classroom before your visit to prepare students with background knowledge on the glacier. This eye opening visit will inspire the young environmental activists within your group and provide some excellent case study answers for their exams.

The rest of your day will include stops at some of Iceland’s most stunning waterfalls, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss before getting a good night’s rest at local countryside accommodation before another busy day.

Day 4 - Future of Whaling in the West

As responsible tourists, it is important to get off the beaten track to make sure lesser visited areas benefit from the income of tourism. On day 4 you’ll head to the West of the island where there are many hidden gems to be found.

Your students will have a chance to discuss the complex issue of whaling in Iceland. At this functioning whaling fjord, the practices have changed dramatically over the last 100 years but what should happen next? Encourage your students to take into account sustainability and the effect on the local economy. As preparation for this visit check out our Whales in Iceland resource which will give you the facts about the whales who frequent the Icelandic waters.

For the rest of your day in the West you will explore the geothermal area of Deildatunguhver and the thermal spa that benefits from this activity, Krauma as well as waterfalls, Hraunfossar, Barnafoss and Glanni.

Day 5 - Reykjanes DME

On your way back to Keflavik airport, challenge your students to pull together all they have learned to tackle the question ‘should a high speed train be built between Keflavik and Reykjavik’? It is highly controversial due to the UNESCO Geopark status of the peninsula, but the geothermal energy provision would take many coaches off the road and therefore lower the carbon emissions. These factors make for a challenging decision making exercise for your group.

Further reading on Keflavik – Reykjavik airport train:





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