Ed­u­ca­tor to em­bark on jour­ney of a life­time

Skariah to travel to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

Us­ing global ex­pe­di­tions to pro­vide teach­ers with hand­son pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and unique learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, The Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety and Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions has se­lected a group of 35 ed­u­ca­tors from the U.S. and Canada to par­tic­i­pate in the 2016 Grosvenor Teacher Fel­lows Pro­gram.

Prince Ge­orge’s County’s own Karuna Skariah, an in­struc­tional pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor and tal­ented and gifted teacher at Robert God­dard Montes­sori PreK-8 School in Seabrook, was among the top ed­u­ca­tors cho­sen to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram out of 700 ap­pli­cants. This com­pet­i­tive, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity al­lows teach­ers to bring im­mer­sive ge­o­graphic learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences back to their class­rooms and com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tional Ge­o­graphic press re­lease.

“The Grosvenor Teacher Fel­low Pro­gram is a highly com­pet­i­tive op­por­tu­nity for teach­ers in grades [kinder­garten] K through 12 who have com­mit­ted some part of their ca­reer to ge­o­graphic ed­u­ca­tion,” said Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions Con­ser­va­tion and Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Di­rec­tor Amy Berquist. “It doesn’t have to be just ge­og­ra­phy teach- er or sci­ence teach­ers. It’s re­ally for the teach­ers out there who are show­ing young peo­ple how in­ter­con­nected our world is.”

Since its in­cep­tion 10 years ago, the Grosvenor Teacher Fel­low Pro­gram sends K through 12th grade ed­u­ca­tors on a 10- to 17-day ex­pe­di­tion, aboard the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our or Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Ex­plorer, to lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Arc­tic Sval­bard, Ice­land, Greenland, Antarc­tica, the Bri­tish Isles and the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands. The fel­lows will ex­pe­ri­ence land­scapes, cul­tures and wildlife unique to their re­gions of ex­plo­ration, while be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by Lind­blad-Na­tional Ge­o­graphic ex­pe­di­tion ex­perts, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic web­site.

Berquist said Skariah will travel on a 10-day Lind­blad voy­age to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands later this year for a one-of-a-kind field ex­pe­ri­ence.

“She’ll be trav­el­ing aboard the Lin­blad Ex­pe­di­tions’ ship [the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our] and she will spend about a week ex­plor­ing the Gala­pa­gos. While she’s there, she will come face-to-face with an­i­mals that live only in the Gala­pa­gos and nowhere else on Earth — very unique an­i­mals like gi­ant tor­toises and ma­rine igua­nas and sea lions,” Berquist said. “The thing that makes her par­tic­u­lar place re­ally unique is that in the Gala­pa­gos, an­i­mals have no fear of

hu­mans. So she will lit­er­ally be within an arm’s reach. … She’s go­ing to have quite an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with wildlife.”

Ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease, Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions works in al­liance with the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety to in­spire peo­ple to ex­plore and care about the planet. As pi­o­neers of global ex­plo­ration, their ed­u­ca­tion­ally-ori­ented voy­ages to all seven con­ti­nents al­low guests to in­ter­act with and learn from lead­ing sci­en­tists, nat­u­ral­ists and re- searchers while dis­cov­er­ing stun­ning nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments above and be­low the sea, through state-of-the-art ex­plo­ration tools.

Dur­ing her ex­pe­di­tion, Skariah will travel with nat­u­ral­ists, a Lind­blad-Na­tional Ge­o­graphic cer­ti­fied pho­tog­ra­pher and an un­der­sea spe­cial­ist. She will not only get to ex­plore life above and be­low the wa­ter, but will also hike, snorkel, go kayak­ing and visit a lo­cal school on the Is­lands, Berquist said.

“I’m ex­cited,” Skariah said. “It’s go­ing to be 10 days of ac­tive in­volve­ment in ob­serv­ing, record­ing, keep­ing a log, writ­ing a blog, in­ter­act­ing with sci­en­tists and ex­plor­ers.”

This year marks the 10th year of the Grosvenor Teacher Fel­low Pro­gram, es­tab­lished to honor for­mer Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety Chair­man Gil­bert M. Grosvenor’s life­time com­mit­ment to en­hanc­ing and im­prov­ing ge­o­graphic ed­u­ca­tion across the U.S. The pro­gram — which started with two fel­lows in 2007 — has grown each year, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

Berquist said she has been in­volved with the pro­gram since “day one” and feels “very for­tu­nate” to have watched it grow over­time. As a re­sult of the pro­gram’s suc­cess, nearly 145 teach­ers from 44 dif­fer­ent states have been able to par­tic­i­pate, she said.

“I got in­volved in the be­gin­ning be­cause I think teach­ers in our world to­day are some of the big­gest heroes that we can find,” Berquist said. “Any­way we can en­hance what they’re try­ing to do for young peo­ple re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence and I just love be­ing a part of that.”

At Robert God­dard Mon- tes­sori, Skariah teaches tal­ented and gifted stu­dents in 2nd grade to 5th grade, many of whom are “twice-ex­cep­tional” with spe­cial needs as well, she said.

Skariah, a Nepal na­tive, said she plans on us­ing her field-day ex­pe­ri­ence in the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands to de­sign a cur­ricu­lum and bring it back to “an­chor my lessons,” teach­ing her stu­dents about the Is­lands’ rich for­ma­tion and di­ver­sity.

“The Gala­pa­gos Is­lands is so rich in its for­ma­tion and di­ver­sity. I can bring any­thing I want into the class­room and widen my stu­dents’ hori­zon,” Skariah said. “To en­joy teach­ing, you have to in­still the joy of learn­ing into stu­dents. To be able to in­still the joy of learn­ing in stu­dents, you have to look at the lessons that you teach.”

As a 20-year vet­eran in the ed­u­ca­tion field, Skariah said she gets bored with text­book teach­ing and in­stead prefers a more “ver­sa­tile” cur­ricu­lum that al­lows stu- dents to in­ter­act and en­joy learn­ing. She said she is ex­cited about her ex­pe­di­tion to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands and bring­ing back that ex­pe­ri­ence to her class­room.

“I love the thought of chang­ing the cur­ricu­lum … so that I cover the ba­sics and also en­hance the learn­ing,” she said. “I want to help them uti­lize in­ter­ac­tive maps and I want them to find all of th­ese re­mote is­lands. I want them to also study the ocean ecosys­tems and most im­por­tant of all, I want the stu­dents to un­der­stand their place in the global con­ser­va­tion and the hu­man con­nec­tion to the ecosys­tems.”

For Skariah, fail­ure is not an op­tion for her stu­dents as learn­ing is a mat­ter of time and prac­tice. She said teach­ing brings her so much joy and that each stu­dent, re­gard­less of whether they’re tal­ented and gifted (TAG) or low-per­form­ing, has a unique need. Her teach­ing strat­egy in­volves ground­ing her­self in terms of un­der­stand­ing where stu­dents come from aca­dem­i­cally, as well as and be­ing “well versed” in the sub­ject mat­ter, she said.

“Re­gard­less of spe­cial needs or TAG, it doesn’t mat­ter; it’s the learn­ing style,” said Skariah. “Some of my TAG stu­dents are high per­form­ing but they get emo­tion­ally dis­traught and can­not speak in pub­lic. So I need to know the trig­ger point ex­actly, how far to push and how rig­or­ous I need to make that les­son. … The same rule ap­plies to the spe­cial needs stu­dents — how far can I push that child.”

Skariah said be­ing able to ed­u­cate a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of work­ers and lead­ers is em­pow­er­ing. Her next steps in­clude hav­ing vir­tual field trips for stu­dents to help them un­der­stand the work of other sci­en­tists and ex­plor­ers, teach­ing them about lo­cal cul­tures, how those cul­tures de­velop their own con­ser­va­tion poli­cies and what ef­fects those poli­cies have on frag­ile ecosys­tems.

In ad­di­tion, the Bur­tonsville res­i­dent wants to col­lab­o­rate with sci­ence teach­ers and speak at other schools to ex­pand and share that knowl­edge. Skariah’s ul­ti­mate goal is to help stu­dents “un­der­stand the big pic­ture and be re­spon­si­ble for the big pic­ture,” she said.

“An amaz­ing fact is that the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, they’re still mov­ing — they’re mov­ing from west to east. They’re sit­ting on top of this mov­ing plate and ac­tu­ally have ac­tive vol­ca­noes un­der the sea that are still form­ing is­lands. So that knowl­edge is not [taught from the] text­book,” Skariah said. “I guess the sky’s the limit to what I want to do. … Th­ese are im­por­tant pieces for stu­dents to learn.”

Be­fore her voy­age to the Is­lands, Skariah will travel to the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., with the other ed­u­ca­tors to par­tic­i­pate in hands-on, pre-ex­pe­di­tion work­shops cov­er­ing pho­tog­ra­phy and outreach plan­ning and will have the op­por­tu­nity to net­work with Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions nat­u­ral­ists and past fel­lows, ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease.

“I would love to see just con­tin­ued growth,” Berquist said. “I’d love to see us be able to say that we’ve had a teacher from ev­ery sin­gle state in the U.S. and ev­ery sin­gle Cana­dian prov­ince. And just be­ing able to im­pact as many young peo­ple that we can and help them un­der­stand that the nat­u­ral world is worth tak­ing care of and that the world is re­ally con­nected.”

PHOTO SUB­MIT­TED BY KARUNA SKARIAH

Karuna Skariah of Bur­tonsville was se­lected as one of the 2016 Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions and Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Grosvenor Teacher Fel­lows. Karuna — a tal­ented and gifted teacher at Robert God­dard Montes­sori School in Seabrook — will em­bark on a 10-day Lind­blad voy­age aboard the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands for a one-of-a-kind field ex­pe­ri­ence later this year. Karuna is a Na­tional Board Cer­ti­fied Teacher and has taught for nearly 20 years. She is orig­i­nally from Nepal, a country in South Asia.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LIND­BLAD EX­PE­DI­TIONS

Skariah will travel to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands aboard the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our.

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