Saturday, January 7, 2012

Last of 431 Teachers Return from Fund for Teachers Fellowships, Fund for Teachers grants normally experienced during the summer -- but it IS summer in Antarctica

Houston teachers spend holiday break, and a $10,000 Fund for Teachers grant, on Antarctic expedition to inspire students’ interest in environmental issues; They mark the last of 431 preK-12 teachers from across the country who broadened their horizons in 2011 with $1.7M in Fund for Teachers grants.

Some teachers go to the end of the world for their students, literally. With a $10,000 Fund for Teachers grant, Houston teachers Adrienne Raible and Brooke Leith spent their holiday break on an Antarctic expedition to inspire students’ interest in environmental issues and promote research skills proficiency.

Throughout the fall semester and in preparation for their voyage, Raible and Leith collaborated with science and geography teachers to lead students' research on Antarctica. After school, campus book clubs read historic accounts of polar expeditions; environmental clubs studied how people’s actions in Houston cause environmental disturbances in Antarctica. Eager to track their teachers' progress across the southernmost tip of the world, students followed Raible and Leith on Facebook during the holiday break.

The high school teachers' twelve-day itinerary included educational presentations by scientific experts, excursions in inflatable boats to conduct research, and glacier camping under the Austral sky.

"As we sat in our first educational briefing, the expedition leader said, 'A piece of Antarctica will get in your blood. You will be forever changed.' At that point, I did not grasp the impact this trip would have on my life, both professionally and personally," said Raible, teacher at Pasadena Memorial High School. "Because of this grant, I better understand the importance of protecting our planet and am equipped with new knowledge to share with my students and colleagues."

The teachers/explorers plan to use their experiences to develop a global environment unit that integrates science, geography, technology, and research concepts deepened during their fellowship. Their goal is to encourage students' exploration of environmental interdependence. They're convinced the fellowship in Antarctica will inspire authentic learning and heightened engagement.

"The surreal landscape of sea, ice and snow offered me a unique glimpse of an untouched wilderness," said Leith, teacher at Sam Rayburn High School. "Through my stories, pictures and videos, I will make Antarctica come alive for my students and hopefully motivate them to take action to preserve Earth's last great unspoiled continent."

Raible and Leith mark the last of the 431 preK-12 teachers from across the country who broadened their horizons this year with $1.7M in Fund for Teachers grants. Eligible educators interested in applying for 2012 summer grants may apply online; the deadline for proposals is January 27, 2012. For more information, visit or call 1-800-681-2667.

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by supporting them as they pursue opportunities around the world that have the greatest impact on their practice, their students and their school communities.

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