Lisa Carden

Shelby Elementary School , Shelby AL

Join a teacher expedition of the Galapagos Islands and Quito, Ecuador, bringing artifacts and knowledge back to three Title I schools and enhancing the "Leaving Our Legacy" unit that challenges students to solve real-world problems.

Where I've Been

  • Floreana Island, Ecuador
  • Isabela Island, Ecuador
  • Las Grietas, Ecuador
  • Puerta Ayora , Ecuador
  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador

My Fellowship in Images

The sea lions were greeting us as we kayaked back in from snorkeling with the sharks, penguins, sea turtles, and iguanas!
Make way for the 140 year old female Floreana tortoise who greeted us while we were walking in the woods!
Visiting the conservation sanctuaries to see the amazing efforts they are making to recover this population.
Exploring the city of Quito, Ecuador!
Snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean where we saw sharks, penguins, sea turtles, and marine iguanas eating.
Snorkeling on Santa Cruz island in a brackish lagoon.

Igniting Personal and Professional Growth

What changed as a result of your fellowship? Why was it vital for you to pursue this particular opportunity/experience? What learning gaps (yours and/or your students’) were/will be filled as a result of your fellowship?

I have forever been changed since seeing the Galapagos Islands and the people and wildlife there. I have a passion and renewed excitement for conservation and living harmoniously with nature. It was vital for me to pursue this opportunity because I knew that it was a once in a lifetime trip. I learned much about turtle conservation, volcanic formations, and how to reduce the waste I create daily. I will be bringing back of wealth of knowledge to my students about this breath taking adventure.

How do you see your teaching evolving after your fellowship? Your students’ learning?

My students and my teaching are going to flourish as I incorporate Ecuador into our study as well as conservation here locally for us. My students live on the lake and it is dirty and polluted. I am going to spearhead a conservation clean-up in our community so that the students will take ownership of their ecosystem and find ways to help clean and protect it. I know that my excitement and passion will spark a fire in each one about the importance of protecting the wildlife here also.

What were some unplanned or unexpected experiences or outcomes of your fellowship?

To see an island of 25,000 people then take 3 hour water taxi to an island of only 150 inhabitants is just mind blowing. We slept in a tree house on the island with little running water and it was the highlight of our trip. To see the pride those villagers had for their island made you want to stay there forever. Walking along the black beaches was unreal. Being greeted everywhere we went by seals and marine iguanas was amazing. Snorkeling with penguins, sharks, and sea turtles was priceless

Impacting Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your students learn differently because of your new knowledge or skills?

I am going to change the way I have taught conservation in the past as well as incorporate problem based learning projects. I want the students to take ownership of problems locally so that we can work to try to solve them. I am going to introduce a unit on solar energy and we are going to build solar panels so that they can see the power that can be harnessed from the sun. On one of the islands, solar power was there main source of energy during part of the day.

What specific events, projects or deliverables will your students experience related to your fellowship?

The students will be participating in a campus cleanup as well as a lake cleanup. They will be building solar panels, interactive books about Galapagos animals, and researching conservation efforts still happening in the Galapagos Islands. The students will skype with reasearchers from the Charles Darwin center in Ecuador and monitor and track the turtles that have been tagged and released in the islands. We will also be tracking the hatching rates from the 2 conversations.

How, specifically, will your fellowship extend beyond your classroom? (e.g. families, school-at-large, afterschool groups, surrounding community, colleagues, etc.)

The Tortoise Trio each teach at a total of 4 schools a week so we are excited to extend that information beyond one school setting. Two school systems will be exposed to the amazing knowledge that we acquired and brought back to Alabama. I have already shared so much with my family and friends and we have around 400 people following us on our Facebook page. We will be hosting a Galapagos day in our community in February to celebrate Charles Darwin's birthday as well.

Inspiring the Future

Why was this opportunity transformative for your teaching on a macro-level?

Last year I completed my National Boards for Teaching and it truly taught me to look closely at the impact I was having on each student. This grant has helped me to begin to see how I can make an impact on my community and world as well. I no longer want my students to simply think small town life, I want them to be driven and excited to take a risk when they are older and explore places they have never been. I don't want them to be 40 before they get brave enough to take that leap!

Why do students benefit from this type of teacher learning?

Students benefit from this type of teacher learning because the teacher's come back so recharged and renewed. I acquired so much knowledge by seeing animals and conservation efforts first hand. A book does not do justice to the beauty of a 140 year old tortoise who walks right by you as if you aren't even there. To see animals who have no fear of humans is something I have never witnessed. When we bring back this first hand knowledge, we are changing the way students see the world too!

How would you describe to a friend or grant funder the fundamental ways in which your fellowship changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I wish I was eloquent enough to tell you in words have my life was changed through this experience. I was in a lull in my profession and I have the flame of knowledge and excitement resparked for myself and my students. Passion and self determination are contagious and my school is already a buzz with the excitement of this opportunity. I have spent hours talking to colleagues about this adventure and encouraging them to step out and begin applying as well. I am now ready to make my mark!