The fruits of IIE's labors: teacher Karen Cruse giving a lesson on the Galapagos. Photo by Pete Oxford
Though I delved into Toyota's reasons for annually executing their singular teaching program in the Galapagos, I amazingly failed to touch on the unsung heroes of the operation: the Institute of International Education.
IIE works closely with Toyota's philanthropy division to orchestrate the trip, in order to benefit classrooms across America by fostering an international, educational dialogue between the Galapagos and the US. The non-profit's mission is to promote "closer educational relations between the people of the United States and those of other countries," according to the organization's website—and judging by the expertise by which they immersed the US teachers into the diverse, foreign environment of the Galapagos, I'd say mission accomplished.
IIE isn't traditionally an environmentally focused organization—it was Toyota's initiative that brought them into the green arena. Perhaps best known for its Fulbright programs, IIE is all about encouraging cross-national education and allowing for an exchange of ideas across nations. It counts the US Department of State, the Department of Energy, the World Bank, the MacArthur Foundation, GE, and Cisco among its numerous sponsors.
Mike McCartt, the Assistant Director of International Programs at IIE who accompanied the teachers to the Galapagos, is nonetheless keen on the new eco-focused angle some of his programs have taken on. He still cites his primary interest as introducing foreign cultures to one another, and stimulating an exchange of ideas across international borders.
Thanks largely to McCartt and MarDestinee Perez, the Senior Program Manager at IIE, the Teacher Program to the Galapagos successfully incorporated both that exchange of ideas and an intense focus on environmental issues as well. From the Organic Farm visits to the tour of the uninhabited islands to the collaborative US/Galapagos teacher projects a well-rounded program emerged that successfully blended international education with a heaping dose of green. Teachers left not only aware of myriad new environmental issues, but with ideas of how to approach them with a globally minded focus—and how to engage other teachers worldwide in finding their solutions.
Like I said, mission accomplished.
30 of the top teachers in the US made 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 traveled alongside the educators to report on the current threats and wonders of modern day Galapagos.