Summertime Learning in the Galapagos

July 5, 2015
Original image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Commons.

Summer is a great time to attend workshops or visit museums, botanical gardens, parks and forests, etc. These are all great learning tools that are usually close to home and affordable. But what if you had the opportunity to travel internationally? To experience other cultures similar to where you live? Imagine how beneficial that experience would be!

Courtney Skipper, a 6th grade Science teacher with twelve years of teaching experience from Clarksdale, Mississippi, was searching for such an opportunity when she found The Rural School and Community Trust Global Teacher Fellowship Program. 

Focusing on place-based learning, the goals of the program are: 

To enhance teaching practiceExpand student learningTo improve rural communities through student workTo establish a network of rural teachers committed to place-based learning and the globalization of the rural K-12 learning environmentTo highlight best practices in rural teaching and learning based on the work of Global Teacher Fellows

The program awards up to 25 fellowships per year to support the professional and personal development of rural teachers. Each fellowship is worth up to $5,000 for individual teachers or $10,000 for a team of two or more teachers. To apply, teachers need to complete an online application process, including a description of the self-designed travel/study experience and the relevance of that experience to the applicant’s professional and personal growth and development.

Inspiration for a Better Environment.

Courtney Skipper was looking for inspiration that could be used in her classroom to encourage her students to be better environmental stewards in their own community in the Delta farmlands of Mississippi. Having read about the Galapagos Islands and their unique set of environmental conditions, Courtney wanted to see for herself what measures the people there take to ensure their islands stay the way they are.

Environmentally and ecologically, Courtney says it was interesting to see that the habitat of the Galapagos Islands had not changed over time. In contrast, in her own farming community things have changed greatly, due to advances in farming technology and different ways of life. For instance, the Galapagos Islands prohibits the use of pesticides, whereas farmers use them frequently at home. Courtney also took note of their use of primitive equipment, compared to our more advanced technology, and how they utilize their rivers to transport products—much the same as we use the Mississippi River for transport. Perhaps the most noticeable difference was in the foods. To Courtney, they tasted different, better.

Courtney Skipper on the beach in the Galapagos Islands

Thanks to hands-on learning opportunities as a part of her trip, Courtney was also able to relate what she was learning and compare it to her own community. This experience reinforced her belief of hands-on learning for her own students, and gave her a greater appreciation for the land surrounding her Mississippi Delta community. Having planned her trip for one reason, Courtney came away having learned many things environmentally, socially, and professionally.

Courtney’s Galapagos excursion has had a profound effect on her. She told Science Scene that “The Rural School and Community Trust Global Teacher Fellowship Program took away the excuse of not being able to afford a trip like this. It also gave me the opportunity to increase the diversity of my teaching to help my students’ understanding of the importance of our environment. I still think about my trip daily—especially when I go to the grocery store and buy fruits. My trip also allowed me to make new friends and colleagues while encouraging me to improve my Spanish.” Muy bueno, Courtney. Muy bueno.

The 2016 application process for The Rural School and Community Trust Global Teacher Fellowship Program will open again on October 1, 2015. Visit their website for a full description of their program and the eligibility requirements.

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.