Conflict resolution

Person wearing a hat and sunglasses talking to another person whose face we cannot see.
Construction supervisor Matt talking to station leader Marilyn (Photo: T. Ashworth)

The Antarctic framework is very useful in stimulating students' understanding of conflict, whether it be minor discomfort or serious confrontation. The conflict resolution and mediation skills developed in these activities can be adapted to most situations.

You can use any or all of the following three activities to help students understand the nature of conflict, and to provide them with strategies to deal with conflict. This activity could be done in conjunction with the school peer mediation program and can be linked to studies of war or other international conflicts (and in fact to the Antarctic treaty solution in the 'International' unit). Conflict resolution skills are applicable to all areas of life and the benefits can be lifelong. For extremely useful and comprehensive resource material go to the Conflict Resolution Network's website. Here you will find information on the twelve skills of conflict resolution and checklists you can use to 'walk your problem through'.

Antarctic expeditioners come from a wide range of work, social and economic backgrounds. This can be a major stress when the interest in individual differences wears thin after many months of intense living, and people become less tolerant of each others' idiosyncracies. Opportunities for getting away from the difficulties of living close to others are limited by station layout and the weather and high morale is not always easy to maintain.

  • Organise groups of students to spend the day in a tent, or small enclosed space. (Alternatively you could black out the windows of the classroom, put the lights on all day, and keep everyone inside.) Students would have to do all their school work, as well as spend recess and lunchtime in there. Including some group problem-solving exercises so that students have to interact and cooperate in working together will add more realism to the day. (You could even use real current school issues that offer parallels with station life, such as finding ways to get kids to clean up the school yard after themselves.) Have them document their experiences. As a class, then discuss some of the interpersonal issues that arose, and ways of resolving any conflicts that occurred. The discussion could be broadened to include situations that have happened to the students in other groups in which they are involved such as sports teams.
  • Place students in groups and assign specific named roles (which could be based on the expeditioner profiles to each of them. Give the groups a simple concrete task that will cause conflict (such as each person building a structure with a limited number of blocks). Have them role-play a resolution to the conflict using conflict resolution skills. The conflict resolution checklist is a useful resource for this activity.
  • The following are some of the situations that occur on stations. Have students discuss them and come up with ways of dealing with them as either a member of the group or the leader:
    • someone who always sits in the same place in the communal dining room
    • someone who takes tools from a workshop and never replaces them
    • the music in the dining room is turned up very loud making conversation impossible
    • your neighbour in the living quarters is always having noisy parties that keep you awake
    • you are watching a video in the communal theatre and two people come in and take over the machine, stopping your film and putting on their own
    • one group (tradespeople) works standard 8 to 5 hours, another group (scientists) starts late and works late
    • some members of the group resent the sloppy housekeeping habits of a small minority who leave dirty cups around the dining room.
This page was last modified on July 3, 2014.