A Star of the Sea science teacher is back from the trip of a lifetime.
Cristina Veresan was one of just 25 educators from the United States and Canada to be selected as a Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Education Grosvenor Teacher Fellow.
She spent nine days aboard National Geographic Explorer in Arctic Svalbard last month, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, about halfway between continental Norway and the North Pole. Activities included hikes on the tundra and kayak explorations.
“The high Arctic was a harsh yet uniquely beautiful environment,” Veresan said. “The wildlife was sparse, but we had skilled spotters. We saw a few different polar bears, walrus, beluga whales and lots of seabirds. While hiking the tundra, we saw Arctic fox and Svalbard reindeer.”
Led by expedition team members, including Lindblad naturalists, a National Geographic photographer and an undersea specialist, the fellows gain a wealth of knowledge through direct, hands-on field experience including wildlife documentation and data collection.
The hardest adjustment, Veresan says, was the constant daylight and not the temperatures. The North Pole experiences 24 hours of sunlight during the summer months, also known as “midnight sun.”
“I felt prepared for the cold. It was around 40 degrees, 50 degrees, so it’s not as bad and I had plenty of gear to keep me warm,” Veresan said.
The goal is to develop activities and lesson plans for their classrooms and to share with professional colleagues and communities upon returning home.
“I learned so much about Arctic ecology from the naturalists on board the ship and I saw first-hand and learned about the effects of climate change on the Arctic, and I left with a real sense of urgency about protecting our polar regions,” Veresan said. “I went to a totally different part of the world and saw new sights and now I’m back here in Hawaii and seeing familiar sights with new eyes.
Veresan says she plans to share that new perspective with her students. “I am excited to begin incorporating all my new learning into my curriculum. I think most of all I want to inspire my students to be explorers themselves and learn as much as they can about the world,” she said.