In my lifetime I have travelled across Canada, hiked for three weeks in Yukon and Alaska, backpacked across Ecuador, explored the beaches of Hawaii, lived amongst the locals in Newfoundland, visited countless incredible cities in Canada and the United States and called Europe home for five summers.
Travelling, adventure and exploration is in my blood; it makes me who I am. I believe it has made me a better person; a better husband, dad, son and teacher.
When I heard of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions, there was absolutely no question that I would apply! THIS was a professional development opportunity of a lifetime!
I’ll never forget the day when my principal walked into The Cottage (it’s what we call my portable classroom) and told me I had to take a phone call in his office. National Geographic was calling to tell me that I’d be travelling from Seattle, Washington to Sitka, Alaska aboard The Quest via The Inside Passage for a two week adventure of a lifetime.
In March I travelled to National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC where myself, forty-four other Grosvenor Teacher Fellows and National Geographic and Lindblad staff would meet for a week of invaluable learning. Not only did I glean invaluable knowledge and skills in photography, videography, public speaking and leadership, I gained an incredible network of like-minded educators. Through a National Geographic online community and a more informal What’s Apps conversation we keep in touch on a daily basis to share and support one another in the classroom and follow along in one another’s adventures.
In early May, myself, Alisha Lindsay and Kerry Hynes were the second group of Teacher Fellows to embark on our expedition. The first group had just returned from The British Isles. Since our return, other Grosvenor Teacher Fellows have headed to, or are waiting to go to the High Arctic, Central America, Antarctica and the Galápagos Islands.
The intent of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is to allow teachers to travel to remote regions of the earth and then bring their learning back to their classrooms. It’s a responsibility and opportunity that none of us take lightly. In the two weeks leading up to my expedition I had my students become my travel agents. I gave them my itinerary and each student picked a place that they would become an “expert” on. The built presentations on the various places I’d be visiting such as Victoria, Petersburg, Misty Fjords and Glacier National Park. They reported to their classmates and myself what I might expect to see and experience, any environmental issues associated with the location and “big” questions they might have. They built their learning into a Google Tour and called it Mr.C’s Voyage. Passage to Sitka! My travel agents did a great job preparing me for my expedition.
While aboard The Quest my students followed my journey carefully and virtually learned along side me. It was my turn to build a Google Tour; “Passage to Sitka” which allowed my students (and family) to join me through pictures, video and text. I also attempted to blog and provide updates through my Twitter feed. An unexpected role that I took on was that of a teacher ambassador. I had countless discussions with staff and guests aboard The Quest about education today and how both teaching and learning has changed and evolved. I had the opportunity to do an evening talk on my “Connected Classroom” which was well received and created further conversation and inquiries. I’m happy to have remained connected with many of the staff and guests and have even brought some of them into my learning environment upon my return.
Speaking of my return. My colleagues were anxious to have their students learn about my travels as well and asked if I might share my expedition with the school community. It was an opportunity I was pleased to accept but also one that I didn’t take lightly. This was a chance for me to impress upon my whole school community. What message did I want to get across? What did I want them to learn? How would I take a half an hour on the second last day of school and turn into something that would be of value to our kindergarten to grade 6 students? I didn’t just want to entertain them with pictures and videos of whales, sea lions and bears. I wanted to inspire them.
I decided that I wanted to encourage each of them to find their own Inner Explorer. I didn’t want them look at my expedition aboard The Quest and see exploration as out of their reach. I wanted my school community to realize that I first boarded an airplane when I was thirteen and not again until I was twenty-seven. I wanted the kids to understand that my explorations began as a young child in my own backyard. I wanted them to know they didn’t need to board a plane or boat or travel in a car to explore. They had their feet and likely a set of wheels to seek adventure. Opportunities to explore are simply all around them and their wonderful city of Thunder Bay and surrounding area is a great place to start. I also wanted this message to come from others as well, so I asked my fellow Grosvenor Teacher friends to share stories of their first adventures.
On Thursday, June 27th at 2 pm I shared the following video with my school community.
I’m hoping every one of our students will find opportunities to explore this summer and I look forward to hearing about their adventures in the fall.
I’d love to hear how you create a sense of adventure and exploration in your classroom and how you encourage your students to explore.