My Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship journey

December 14, 2019
By Ruth Smith, Grade 8 Teacher, Hepburn

Ruth Smith had many wonderful experiences in the Galapagos Islands as a result of having received the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. 

In March 2019, I was chosen to receive the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship along with 44 other teachers from the United States and Canada.

This Fellowship is part of National Geographic’s educational professional development program and is also made possible by Lindbald Expeditions.

This then took me on the ship–the Endeavour II–to the Galapagos Islands for eight days.

My journey began when I enrolled in the National Geographic Education Certification, which introduced me to the National Geographic Learning Framework, which focuses lessons on knowledge, skills, and attitudes of our local, regional and global world. Through this program, I was introduced to a massive educational resource library and a large online community of teachers who share ideas and classroom experiences.

The Hepburn-based teacher is happy to share this “amazing professional development
opportunity” with colleagues.

This educational program and community is geared to all grade levels and subject areas, not just science. I was also introduced to all the other educational programs run by National Geographic that are free to teachers. Teachers who complete the online course are eligible to apply for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship, which I did.

After receiving the Fellowship, I travelled to Washington, D.C. to meet and train with the other 44 teachers. At this time, I met my shipmate, Kelly, from Manchester, New Hampshire. During our week at the National Geographic headquarters, we were trained by National Geographic staff on storytelling, photography, videography and many other topics we would use on our expedition. Being able to meet so many incredible teachers from North America and hear what they are doing in their classrooms was an amazing professional development opportunity for me.

My trip to the Galapagos began on August 22, 2019 with a flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador where all the passengers (approximately 90 people) of the Endeavour II convened.

The islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are renowned for their array of wildlife, including bluefooted
boobies and turtles.

The next day we all flew to San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. Over the next eight days, we toured by Zodiac, hiked, kayaked and snorkelled in and around the Islands of Española, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Bartolomé, Genovesa and Baltra. The scenery and wildlife were spectacular. I was surprised by how the animals on all the islands had very little fear of humans because there are no natural predators for most. Little birds would land on us and you could walk right up to all the animals.

I was not prepared for how “winter” in the Galapagos had similarities to winter in Saskatchewan; the trees lost their leaves and animal habits changed during the winter. The number of species we saw while snorkelling in such clear water (fish, sharks, rays, penguins, sea lions, octopus and many others) was amazing. We finished our trip by flying to Quito, Ecuador where we had half a day to tour the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This truly was a trip of a lifetime.

As I returned home and reflected on the experience, I am excited for the impact that this trip will have on my classroom. One of my goals in teaching is to inspire students to explore their world. For some that will mean actually travelling to places, but for others that will be exploring their place in their community and country, as well as using technology to explore the far reaches of our universe. In addition, my experience reinforced for me how we are all part of one beautiful planet that desperately needs all of us to protect it. Our students are the future stewards of our earth so we need to expose them to its beauty and vulnerability.

If you are interested in the program, check out the National Geographic website at www.nationalgeographic.org. You can also contact me at ruth.smith@spiritsd.ca.