“The congratulations email we got from Fund for Teachers on April 4 about our grant said “This is just the beginning…” Little did we know how true that sentiment was…”
So began the note from 2019 FFT Fellow Kelly Whitaker. She and team mate Sherry Grogan (Monroe Area High School – Monroe, GA) designed their fellowship to collect data and capture 360 video in the Galapagos Islands to inspire scientific field experiences in Georgia that culminate in student presentations at elementary and middle schools intended to pique student interest in biology. Now, however, their fellowship is also taking them to London. Kelly continued…
“My team member, Sherry Grogan, submitted some photos to the photography competition for the Galapagos Conservancy. She was notified this weekend that one of her photos of a lava lizard (above) had received an Honorable Mention and will be in the 2020 calendar.”
“It gets better… October 30, the Galapagos Conservancy is holding its annual Galapagos Day in London and the winning photos will be exhibited. We just left our principal’s office and we have been approved to go to London! Thank you again, FFT, for this amazing experience.”
Read on to see more of “Team Darwin’s” adventures:
What Changed As A Result of Your Fellowship?
Sherry: “I pushed the limits of my comfort zone routinely while in the Galapagos. I learned to snorkel and engaged with land and sea creatures while shooting 360 videos and taking pictures. Learning in this manner has shown me the importance of capturing student interest in every unit and I feel that I am better equipped to make this happen after the fellowship. Students will surely perform higher in the evolution unit with newly designed lessons of 360 VR experiences and having studied Darwin’s work.”
Kelly: “As my teammate said, ‘We showed up as teachers and we are leaving as students. Our ‘I wonder…’ list is a mile long; our confidence has exploded; our friendship bond is rock solid. The emotional impact was more than I could have imagined. I sat in a panga with six other people with tears rolling down my cheeks at my first sighting of a blue footed booby. I found out that I can’t cry and snorkel at the same time, when I was bobbing in water with penguins.”
How Do You See Your Teaching Evolving?
Sherry: “I will be entering my 22nd year of teaching next year. This fellowship has completely overhauled my passion for teaching and finding ways to spark interest in my students. I have already tentatively created a plan for involving some portion of the “Galapagos” in each unit. I think this recurring theme will brilliantly help the students learn about such a fascinating place on earth, while also mastering the standards in Biology.”
Kelly: “Our students are going to see our excitement and come up with their own ‘I wonder…’ lists. Our students will be able to ‘visit’ the Galapagos using our 360 video and still shots. They will have a connection to this material that they didn’t have before. We are already looking at the photos we want to exhibit in the elementary schools and middle schools. Our students will have a different level of engagement due to this connection.”
How will your students learn differently because of your new knowledge or skills?
Sherry: “With all of the footage we shot (i.e., 360 video, photographs, 360 still photos, etc), we have a new approach to many of our units. The photos will come to life in the classroom through the eyes of two very enthusiastic teachers who absolutely cannot stop talking about this trip with friends and family. I learned so much about myself as a teacher, reevaluated my students, and I am prepared to provide a growth opportunity for all students in my room with exciting new material!”
Kelly: “Students are going to be in awe of our passion and excitement. They will want to be engaged in our lessons because they will be able to sense that there is something special going on in our classroom. When we first met the members of our group, I asked the lady from NYC why they were in the Galapagos. She said, ‘When I was in fourth grade, I did a report on the blue footed booby and since then, I’ve always wanted to go.’ And that made me cry. Because one day, I want that for my students.
Sherry Grogan has taught high school biology for 20 years after spending 8 years as a police officer. Dr. Kelly Whitaker is a special education co-teacher in Biology and Physics. Her previous summer adventures include riding a motorcycle, solo, across thirty states and 16,000 miles; hiking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago and climbing Mt. Katahdin.