Imagine an experience you have had in your life - a meaningful experience, powerful, emotional. An experience that made you feel like you really UNDERSTOOD it and needed to DO something as a result of it.
Now imagine how the intensity of that reaction -- that motivation -- would have changed had you only read about the experience. Or heard about that experience from someone else. Would you still be as invested in the outcome?
We humans are inquisitive by nature. We desire to know things; we seek to understand why things are the way they are and how we can impact the world around us -- our own environment. In order to care about issues, we must first understand them. That understanding comes from our experience.
Sparking the intellectual curiosity that our students bring to our classrooms every day is the goal of student-centered educators. We strive to design meaningful learning opportunities that give students authentic opportunities to learn about themselves and the world around them. Our subject areas become engaging when we contextualize them for students and give them a real purpose for learning. Our language amplifies when we learn situational appropriateness and begin to use different kinds of language for different kinds of purposes.
When we dig deeper, we realize that if we are going to challenge students to see meaning in the world around them, we, too, have to look for meaning and make connections all around ourselves. We have to fuel our own intellectual curiosity, learn what questions to ask and how to ask them, and seek out opportunities to learn and grow both as humans and professionals.
This unbridled curiosity and my eternal quest to be the best educator I can for my students is what led me to apply for a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. My passion for education and travel shone through my application and I was honored to be awarded a fully-funded study abroad to the continent of Antarctica this year.
And here I sit. Documenting the experience in real time as I wait to board my flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
There are many questions on my mind:
- What will this experience teach me about myself?
- How will I learn all there is to learn about this polar ecosystem in a relatively short amount of time?
- What questions should I ask to get the kind of information that piques students' interest?
- How can I write curriculum that resonates with students?
And, perhaps,most importantly:
- How can I replicate this experience in meaningful ways so that my students in Madison, Wisconsin, see themselves reflected in their learning, feel powerfully connected to the topics and issues raised by polar studies, and are challenged -- even compelled -- to grow in their own travel experiences and to become positive agents of change in our increasingly interconnected world?
The experience begins with my own.
Thank you for reading this journal in the quest for your own knowledge, and thank you, National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, for believing in our capacities as educators to infuse global studies into our diverse curricular areas and to excite our students about the many ways in which they can become amazing citizens of our amazing planet.
With that, I have a plane to catch and the experience of a lifetime to have.
A sleepy, but excited, departure from Madison!