PCHS Teacher Takes Once In A Lifetime Trip To The Galapagos Islands
Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County HS Science teacher Mary Sue Burns shared some information about her once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands with the Pocahontas County Board of Education Monday night. The trip is sponsored by the Toyota International Teacher program and Burns says it’s not easy to get into.
“They selected 24 teachers; it was a competitive application, there were 851 applicants and they picked the 24 of us from all over the country” she says. “And a lot of people ask me, well it was all science teachers right? Well, no anybody is eligible to apply 6th grade through 12th grade [teachers], but it was multisubject.”
Burns says although the majority of the teachers were science teachers, they did have a few teachers from other disciplines.
“There was a theater teacher in our group, there were several art teachers, there were several Spanish teachers, an English as a second language teacher, so it was actually quite a diverse group of wonderful inspiring teachers; it was a pleasure to travel with them. I’ve never been with a group where there wasn’t a single whine about anything; everybody was 100% enthusiastic and onboard from the get go.”
Burns says the program entailed several different components.
“We had a professor from the Bren School of Environmental Science that’s associated with the University of California at Santa Barbara along with us” says Burns. “And periodically like during down times, we’d have lectures about things like fuels and recycling. We took a cruise around the uninhabited islands so we got to see the biodiversity first hand and the most volcanically active place on the planet, an exciting place for me to be as an earth science teacher.”
The Galapagos Islands, located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, South America are actually a collection of 13 major islands, 6 smaller ones, and numerous islets. They are part of Ecuador and host a population of about 30,000 people occupying only a few of islands. Burns says they also collaborated with teachers from the Galapagos Islands to teach a lesson at a local public school.
“I had kind of underestimated that aspect of it because I knew I was going to very excited about animals and volcanoes and all the science” she says. “I knew we were going to do a school visit and teach a lesson; I do that every day and I was kinda ho-hum about it. And that whole aspect of it just blew me away.”
“That experience was tremendous – to meet the students and work with the teachers for that time period and just see how different the school environment was.”
They also took part in service and sustainability projects while in the islands. She says the Galapagos are unique in that everything used must either be recycled or composted. She also had a chance to use her trip to benefit other students at Pocahontas County HS, such as those in Mali Minters Spanish classes.
“Each of them videotaped themselves asking a question in English and Spanish particularly for the Galapagos students” she says. “And I got on videotape a lot of their answers and responses to our students’ questions.”
Burns then showed the board a photo montage from her trip. She says she’s also considering creating an exhibition of her pictures.