GSE alumnus joins National Geographic arctic expedition

Adam SmithHood River Middle School teacher, Adam Smith, GTEP ’10, got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a trip to the arctic as part of the National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow program (GTF). He is one of 25 individuals out of an initial 1300 applicants who were selected this year for an all-expense-paid visit to the archipelago islands of Svalbard, Norway.

Participants convene in Washington, DC for pre-trip workshops and to meet fellow teacher/travelers, then they travel to Norway where they stay on a ship during their expedition.

The ship is based out of the northernmost city in the world—Longyearbyen, Norway— population 2,040 humans and many free-wandering reindeer.

A trip to the arctic would be a profound experience for most people, but it is particularly inspiring for this middle school science teacher. “The biggest surprise I had while in the Arctic was probably the profound resiliency required by organisms that call that place home,” he said. “Whether the ivory gull or polar bear, which are reliant on sea ice, or the purple saxifrage that hug the cold tundra ground… it was amazing to see life find a niche here. I was also profoundly impacted by the scale of the place. While you’re up there, you have this feeling that it’s endless. The sea ice just stretches out forever, the glacial flows feel timeless. This feeling, countered with the reality that it is in fact quickly diminishing, makes me shiver in awe and concern.”

In addition to science, Mr. Smith teaches sixth grade math, language arts, and ukulele. His passion for the outdoors and his love of project-based learning made him a good fit for the National Geographic program. He has documented his adventure on a personal blog site and published a photo essay of the expedition in the Hood River News. “What I plan to tell my sixth graders is that the Arctic is beautiful and fragile,” he says. “What happens to the ice happens (eventually) to us.”

Named after Gilbert M. Grosvenor, Chairman Emeritus of the National Geographic Society and Education Foundation Board, the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow program gives exemplary K-12 classroom teachers from the 50 U.S. states, Canada, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico an opportunity to participate in geographic education and develop new curriculum for their classrooms.

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