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News from 2022-2023

Posted: May 22, 2023

Amazing Adventure Awaits Garfield Science Teacher

Chris Speck is one of 50 educators from U.S. and Canada selected to take part in expeditions around the world.

Chris Speck

Chris Speck

Middle school teacher Chris Speck will embark on the adventure of a lifetime this summer, taking in Norway’s spectacular fjord-carved coast, surveying secluded inlets and coves by kayak, crossing the Barents Sea, and exploring the icy wilderness of the Svalbard archipelago.

Along the way, he’ll have a front-row seat to polar bears and other majestic creatures in their natural habitats.

Speck, who teaches at Garfield STEM School, is one of 50 educators from the U.S. and Canada selected as the 15th cohort of Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Society Grosvenor Teacher Fellows. Jennifer Anderson of El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe was also selected. The selection process is competitive, but those who are chosen embark on all-expenses-paid expeditions around the world for professional learning and educational experiences.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Speck said. “I’m really, really looking forward to it.”

Speck has been teaching for 21 years – all of that time at APS and the last nine years at Garfield, an APS magnet school that combines science, technology, engineering, and math with real-world problem-solving and teamwork. This year, he’s teaching science and English language arts.

Speck’s adventure to Norway’s Fjords and Arctic Svalbard begins with a flight to Oslo on July 11. But the real excitement begins when he boards the state-of-the-art expedition vessel National Geographic Endurance. The trip wraps up on July 27.

“And then four days later, I go back to work,” he jokes.

“It’s going to be absolutely transformative,” he said. “After 21 years, it’s nice to get a little bit of a boost. And then having this amazing experience to share with students. It absolutely coincides perfectly with what I teach, which is biology with an ecology focus. So just sharing sensitive areas with my students.”

Speck said he is hoping to bring back a good assortment of photography and video. But he’s also trying to figure out how to share the experience with his students and the community in a way “that’s going to engage and is going to be emotionally powerful and salient.”

It won’t be the first time Speck has explored a sensitive ecosystem and then used the experience in the classroom. In July 2018, after being selected as a Golden Apple award winner, he spent a month doing his Golden Apple professional development at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island, off of Oahu. He lived in the dorms, did coral conservation, and helped with the institute’s assisted evolution program.

“I teach that to my students in the fall, and this will just be a nice, complementary piece to that of another sensitive ecosystem,” Speck said. He said he has already done a mini Arctic unit with his students because he wants them involved with what he’s doing.

So what will his time aboard the National Geographic Endurance be like?

Speck notes that there will be around 150 people on it. He will share a cabin with a teacher from Houston. Two other teachers will be on the trip, and they will all be doing daily expedition reports.

There will be a ship naturalist on board briefing them on what they might be seeing that day and providing them with a broad overview of the ecosystem. There will also be a National Geographic photographer, and everyone will share photos.

And it will be daylight the whole time he’s there.

“I won’t see dark again until I get back,” he said, noting that he’s going to need a good sleep mask.

Questions for Chris?

Chris Speck plans to chronicle his expedition to Norway’s Fjords and Arctic Svalbard on his twitter account @teacherspeck and is inviting students, colleagues, and anyone else with questions about the ecologically sensitive area to reach out to him.