Photo by Pete Oxford
Only a few days ago, top secondary school teachers from the US and Galapagos were working together to create environmental education plans. Incorporating ideas from their disparate locales, they'd forged some progressive, globally applicable projects and concepts for curriculum. It was, as I reported earlier, pretty fascinating to watch.
But as the time grew nearer for presenting the projects at the Colegio Nacional Galapagos, the teachers' own fascination seemed to yield to a frenetic drive to wrap up their plans. They worked diligently to overcome language barriers, create effective talking points, and round out their ideas for environmental stewardship.
And when it came time to give the presentations, their uphill battle didn't end there—they faced a Spanish-speaking audience, a disruptive blackout, and their own fatigue. But I have to hand it to them: they performed brilliantly.
A Wealth of Green Ideas
Many of the projects were genuinely innovative—from an approach to incorporating environmental science into literature study in a plan called the "Paradox of Paradise" to a skeletal process for applying eco-awareness to a multimedia format to a cartoon character based approach to teaching stewardship to young students, the exercise seemed to yield a wealth of educational ideas.
Environmental Education Attempts to Cross the Cultural Divide
Unfortunately, the language barrier again proved difficult to say the least—bilingual teachers translated the speeches so both the US and Galapagueno teachers in attendance could understand. The cultural divide was tricky to navigate too—teachers from the Galapagos, accustomed to talking amongst themselves even while at meetings with superintendents, chatted freely and answered cell phones in the middle of the presentations. Their chatter at one point rose to a dull roar that led one teacher to say, "I can't even hear."
But despite all the tribulations, I'd still brand the event as a success. This was the first year that the Toyota International Teacher Program had attempted this exchange, and it is of course a work in progress. The forum at the very least opened doors for further dialogue, as many teachers from both nations exchanged contact information and further discussed topics together after the event. Call it a seed planted in hostile soil—with some attention and further nurturing, it could lead to an important conference on environmental education.
As it was, some great, progressive ideas surfaced and the beginning of a bond was forged.
30 of the top teachers in the US are making a trek from the Florida Everglades to the Galapagos Islands in order to engage a series of global conservation issues in the Toyota International Teacher Program. I'm traveling alongside the educators to report on what we discover about the threats and wonders on modern day Galapagos.