I was recently asked to deliver a presentation to my School Board about my Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship experience aboard the National Geographic Quest.
I figured I’d share my presentation in case others might be interested in knowing how a grade 5/6 teacher from Thunder Bay, Ontario managed to travel with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic from Seattle, Washington to Sitka, Alaska via the Inside Passage for a two week trip of a lifetime!
My love of the outdoors and quest for adventure was instilled in me at a very young age exploring nature’s wonders in and around Thunder Bay.
As I grew older, travel allowed me to explore the world with my wife and eventually our son. I believe it’s through adventure that I learned some of my life’s greatest lessons and I was able to pass on those lessons to my own son.
During the first half of my career, with the limited resources I had available to me, I tried to bring a sense of adventure to my students. I wanted to get them excited about coming to school every day to learn and explore.
Before being connected was really even “a thing”, I strove to establish a connected classroom. I taught my students the importance of knowing themselves and connecting with their peers, their family, our community, the environment and, with God.
At almost exactly the halfway point of my career (about 10 years ago), technology allowed me to connect my students to the world in ways I never dreamed possible. Every new school day would bring seemingly endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.
Being connected allowed us to learn about local Anishinaabe Water Walker Nokomis Josephine Mandamin and invite her to our classroom.
It’s what allowed us to start the Junior Water Walkers movement, a quest to follow in her footsteps.
This led Google Earth to send a documentary team from their headquarters to Thunder Bay and St.Elizabeth school to capture the journey.
My work as a connected educator led National Geographic to feature me as Spotlight Educator.
And this connection led me to the National Geographic Educator program and an incredible community of like minded educators.
And shortly after I became their Canadian ambassador for National Geographic Education and a mentor for others taking the certification.
My connection with National Geographic created opportunities for me to travel to Google in Chicago, Seattle and Mountainview to work with Google Earth Outreach to develop content using Google Earth as a learning platform. I am a Google Earth Education Expert and a Trusted Tester.
I was encouraged to apply for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship; an opportunity for teachers to travel with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic to bring their experience and learning back to kids.
In February of last year I found out I was accepted and a whirlwind of learning and adventure ensued.
First, the 45 Teacher Fellows met at National Geographic in Washington in April where we received a week of intensive training
from National Geographic’s best photographers, videographers, naturalists, scientists writers and story tellers.
And, as I always do when I travel, I had my students help prepare for my trip and stayed connected with them while I was away.
My expedition to Alaska was one of the longest ones offered and the itinerary was incredibly expansive. So I called on my students for help. They became my travel guides, with 14 pairs of students becoming experts on the different places I’d be travelling.
My students built a Google Tour and as they informed one another and myself about where I’d be travelling the excitement mounted.
Although I couldn’t take my students (or my son or wife, Cheryl) with me, I was determined to help them experience my adventure as close to the real thing as possible. So they all travelled virtually with me via a variety of digital tools on my “Passage to Sitka”, and most of their learning for the next two weeks revolved around my expedition.
Although my expedition to Alaska has come to an end, my Fellowship still continues. It’s my responsibility to continue to share my experiences. I want kids to understand that nothing is out of their reach and opportunities to explore are all around them.
My “GO! Explore” initiative is a global project aimed at having students from around the world explore their own local natural environments and share their favourite places with one another. The official webpage is coming soon!