REXBURG – A local teacher is one of 45 selected from around the world for an expedition to Antarctica with the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions.
“I’m so humbled that I was chosen to experience this. Teachers work really hard and every teacher deserves an opportunity like this where they can go and experience something that will change their life and their student’s lives for a long time,” Madison School District teacher Sharee Barton tells EastIdahoNews.com.
The voyage is part of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship program. Its goal is to give teachers an opportunity to see the far corners of the world and bring that back to the classroom. She was awarded the fellowship, along with the other 45 teachers selected. Barton will be traveling with an educator from Washington, D.C. and another from St. Louis, Missouri.
Barton will begin her 14-day expedition two days after Christmas. The MS National Geographic Explorer sets sail on Dec. 27 and she’ll be gone through Jan. 9. She’ll be accompanied on the trip by National Geographic explorers to look at glaciers, birds, penguins and other sea mammals.
“We’ll be going onto shore every day in Zodiac (boats) and/or kayaking around the glaciers,” Barton says. “It’s the trip of a lifetime.”
To prepare for their voyages, Barton and her fellow recipients participated in several days of hands-on, pre-expedition workshops at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. They were trained on a variety of skills ranging from photography and video editing to outreach planning and public speaking.
Staff from Lindblad Expeditions, as well as past Fellows, served as mentors. Those selected for the trip commit to serving for two years as program ambassadors.
National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions has awarded the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship to certified National Geographic educators every year for the last 13 years. Barton first heard about it two years ago when she attended a National Geographic conference in Washington, D.C. She attended the conference to bring back tools to use in her classroom.
“I have never seen my students be as engaged in learning as they have been through the National Geographic processes,” says Barton.
Since then, Barton, who is a certified National Geographic educator, has helped train teachers and educators across the country about the tools provided by the National Geographic Society to help teach students. She was one of several hundred teachers who applied for the fellowship this year.
“For many of the fellows I’m associated with, this is their second or third time applying, and hearing that, I felt very honored that I got to be in the selection process,” she says.
Barton has been a teacher for 31 years in grades K-12 and on the university level. She is currently Madison School District’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator, which means she works with advanced students. Barton says her students are excited for her and hopes the trip will have a direct impact on them.
“My students have a list of questions they want me to be able to answer when I get back,” Barton says. “I can’t say I know exactly where I’m going with this expedition. I feel like it needs to be an organic and authentic experience.”
One thing that’s crossed Barton’s mind is the increasing emotional health challenges among her students. She feels making a trip to see living organisms in the most inhospitable place on earth may shed light for them on how to “survive emotionally in the inhospitable climate that they’re in.”
“I’m going to be watching and learning and taking a lot of notes on how living organisms survive and I’d like to come home and have my students continue Antarctic research in that vein, and see if we can draw some parallels to everyday life,” Barton says.
Regardless of what students take from it, Barton says it will be an experience that will make her more well-rounded and she is looking forward to it.