Professional development is difficult to access for teachers in the Galápagos Islands because of the region’s isolated location, but NC State College of Education Assistant Professor K.C. Busch, Ph.D. is helping to bring opportunities to native educators.
This June marked Busch’s fifth trip — and College of Education University Faculty Scholar and Professor Meg Blanchard’s first — to the islands as part of Education for Sustainability for Galápagos, a public-private partnership that involves multiple universities, agencies and non-profit organizations, including the Ministry of Education and Galápagos Conservancy.
The bi-annual professional development institutes began four years ago with an initial focus on student-centered teaching and interactive classroom techniques. Over the last two years, the sessions began incorporating a set of principles Busch developed to help students learn to live sustainably.
Busch worked with a group providing professional development to about 400 teachers on two islands over the course of five days. The ultimate goal is to connect the sustainability principles with the learning standards of Ecuador’s national curriculum. She and Blanchard were also considering what role they and the College of Education could play in the future to support teachers, promote sustainability in the Galápagos Islands and stimulate students’ interest in sustainability and STEM subjects.
Because teachers on the Galápagos Islands are using the national curriculum set for all schools by Ecuador’s Ministry of Education, Busch said students don’t learn enough about the unique region. One of the project’s goals is to get teachers to use the local resources in science lessons.
“The national curriculum doesn’t really reference the Galápagos Islands. It doesn’t take into account the super special place on which these folks are living and these students are growing up,” Busch said. “For a lot of these schools, literally within steps there’s native trees and plants that aren’t growing anywhere else. Darwin’s finches are flying through the classroom when you’re teaching.”
One more professional development session is scheduled for October, and then those involved with the project will evaluate whether to return or turn the project over to teachers in the Galápagos to allow them to develop their own lessons with outside guidance. Even if the group does not return, Busch said she hopes the relationships they have built over the years will have a lasting impact.
“The cultural exchange is important and so is the relationship building that we did. I hope that remains. That was a really positive experience that sets the teachers up for other great experiences,” she said.